Trails Grants

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) accepts applications for Recreational Trails Grants on an annual basis.  The next due date/deadline for all RTP grants is February 1, 2017.  Only application materials delivered or post-marked by February 1 will be accepted.

Education Grants

The Recreational Trails Program will award 2-3 new grants focused on statewide trail education initiatives.  The due date/deadline for this grant application is February 1, 2017.  For more information, go to Recreational Trails Program - Education Grants

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Please take this opportunity to e-mail now with your current contact information so that we can update our records and keep you informed about the Greenways and Trails Program.

Program Overview

The Massachusetts Recreational Trails Program (RTP) generally provides grants for project costs ranging from $2,000 to $50,000.  However, larger projects of up to $100,000 will be considered if the project is proven to directly impact multiple communities upon completion.  The RTP is a REIMBURSEMENT grant program, meaning grantees must first pay for expenditures themselves and then submit for reimbursement using the required documentation. Grants are awarded for a variety of trail protection, construction, and stewardship projects throughout Massachusetts. RTP is part of the national Recreational Trails Program, which is funded through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Funds are disbursed to each state to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. In Massachusetts, the RTP is administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and grants are reviewed and awarded in partnership with the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board (MARTAB).


Recreational Trails grants are 80-20 challenge grants. In other words, 80% of the project costs are reimbursed to grantees, but at least 20% of the total project value must come from other sources.


Program legislation requires that portions of funds be reserved for different types of projects. The Recreational Trails Program allocates 30% of its funds to motorized use, 30% to non-motorized use, and 40% to diverse use projects. The Recreational Trails program also requires that projects be primarily recreation- rather than transportation-oriented, and will give priority to projects creating or facilitating physical, on-the-ground trail improvements, which protect or enhance the site's natural and cultural resources, and link individuals and communities to these resources.

Suggested Projects

This list is intended to inspire your creativity, not to limit your options.

Suggested Activities for Recreational Trails Projects include:

  • Construction of new trails.
  • Acquisition of land or easements to protect critical sections of priority trails (such as state-wide Long-Distance trails).
  • Enhancement, stewardship and maintenance of existing trails (this could include bridge construction, drainage work, trail hardening, trail grooming, etc.).
  • Development of trailside and trailhead facilities (such as signage, kiosks, maps, gates, and interpretive displays).
  • Trail stewardship aimed at educating users, minimizing impacts on natural and cultural resources, and resolving conflicts.
  • Projects that demonstrate creative approaches to trail construction, partnerships, resource protection, and stewardship.
  • Provision of features that facilitate trail access and use by persons with disabilities, aka Accessible Trails.
  • Youth Corps/Volunteers – projects that accomplish any of the above by hiring/enlisting/partnering with youth organizations, corps or individual volunteers are highly encouraged!

Suggested Types of Trails for Recreational Trails Projects:

  • Long distance trails (such as Mass Central Rail Trail, Mid-state Trail, New England National Scenic Trail, Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Appalachian Trail, Warner Trail, Bay Circuit Trail, and Mahican-Mohawk Trail).
  • Trails that link natural and recreational resources (such as state or local parks) to homes, schools, neighborhoods, and communities.
  • Urban trails in densely populated areas with underserved populations.
  • Water trails.
  • Trails on ‘non-traditional’ open spaces such as utility and transportation corridors, watershed lands, former industrial sites, and landfills.
  • Snowmobile, ATV or off-road motorcycle trails.

Project Selection Criteria

To evaluate and select proposals, DCR and the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board will use the following criteria to assess whether the proposal:

  • Clearly demonstrates the need for the project, such as satisfying a recreational demand, connecting under-served communities, or solving a significant trails issue.
  • Furthers one of the goals or strategies identified in Commonwealth Connections, or an adopted regional or local plan.
  • Describes a realistic, tangible trail project that can be accomplished in the time given, and has as a realistic and appropriate budget.
  • Creates, expands or enhances a trail system or new trail connections, with real and lasting public benefits.
  • Thoroughly considers relevant environmental, social and cultural issues, and minimizes or mitigates impacts to natural and cultural resources, addressing all applicable permitting issues.
  • Creates partnerships among trail users, organizations, or agencies.
  • Demonstrates community support for the project.
  • Actively facilitates a variety of compatible trail uses.


1. Timeline:  FOUR (4) unbound copies of your application (see list of application materials on the right sidebar of this page), including all supporting materials, must be submitted  If the full grant is also available in electronic form (including maps and pictures), then four hardcopies can be sent in with one electronic copy.  All grant funds must be expended and grant-funded work completed within 24 months after the contract start date (which will be signed after the grant award is announced).  No grant work may begin until the grant contract and agreement has been finalized/signed.  An award letter is not a signed contract.

2. Eligibility: All state, regional, municipal, and some federal government agencies, as well as IRS-approved non-profit organizations are eligible for grants under the program. State and federal agencies should call for additional details on eligibility.

3. Permitting: It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that any necessary permits (e.g. Natural Heritage, Mass Historic, Wetlands Protection Act) are in place prior to beginning any work on the project. Failure to obtain necessary permits may prevent grant payment.  Permits are not required to be in place at the time of application.  

4. Land Ownership: Proposals for projects that will take place on land that is not owned or managed by the applying organization must include a signed statement from the appropriate landowner or manager specifically authorizing the project and ensuring that the property is open for continuing public access. If the project will take place on private land, an easement for public access with a commitment of no less than 10 years must be in place prior to the grant award .

5. Acquisitions: All real property acquisitions must comply with federal and state law. They must be done in accordance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, 42 U.S.C. § 4601 et seq. In addition, the applicant will be required to have an appraisal prepared, which must be reviewed by an independent review appraiser, certifying that the appraisal meets the standards of the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions. These standards can be found at Both the appraisal and review must be submitted prior to funding approval.

6. Equipment Purchases: Equipment may only be purchased with grant funding if its use will be on-going for at least five years and integral to the project, such as snowmobile trail grooming. Equipment must be purchased in full as a condition of reimbursement.  Proof of ownership must be submitted with the reimbursement request.

  • Cost/Value Analysis:  For projects requiring only limited use of equipment, rental or contracting should be considered and a demonstrated cost/value comparison and proof of necessity must be provided within the grant narrative. Be sure to provide specific timeframes and cost analysis, as the review team will scrutinize cost comparisons closely and this will directly affect a grantee’s chances of funding. 
  • Reporting: Grants awarded for the purchase of equipment will require documentation of the equipment’s use and condition for a minimum of five years on a bi-annual basis following the grant award, or for a longer timeframe, based on the size, cost and quality of the equipment, to be determined by the MARTAB review team. 
  • Equipment Term:  If the equipment is abandoned or sold within the specified reporting timeframe, the equipment or its sale price must be redistributed towards similar trail project equipment or trail work as indicated in the original grant project proposal.  Proof of this redistribution must be submitted to RTP.  If the documentation is considered insufficient, the equipment or sale value must be returned directly to RTP for redistribution.   If the recipient organization is dissolved or ceases operation within the reporting timeframe, it will be the responsibility of the grantee to donate the equipment to another organization with similar purpose and goals, to be used for tasks similar to those in the original project proposal.  If any of the above occurs outside of the required reporting timeframe, the grant recipient is still encouraged to follow similar protocol until the equipment is no longer functional. 

7. Signage: Where applicable, each RTP project site must display a permanent RTP acknowledgement sign.  The sign should be constructed of sturdy material that is permanent, large enough to be clearly visible and located at a prominent access point to the trail area.  The suggested language identifies the site as a cooperative venture (i.e. “A Cooperative Trail Project between the ‘Name of Municipality/Org.’ and the Recreational Trails Program”).  Any printed materials such as trail brochures, celebration announcements or website information should also identify the financial partnership that made the project a reality.  Stickers or decals should be printed and displayed on all equipment purchased with RTP funding.

8. Match: The project application must include estimates for the matching portion of the project cost. The match must cover a minimum (greater amounts are encouraged) of 20% of the total value of a project. For example, an $8,000 grant funding request would require at least $2,000 in matching contributions, for a total project value of $10,000 (80% of $10k = $8k, 20% of $10k = $2k).  If your project is selected for a grant, the match will need to be documented with invoices, time sheets, or other acceptable records. The actual, documented value of the match must equal at least 20% of the total project value before the final grant payment can be made and the grant closed out.   If submitting multiple reimbursement requests throughout the grant contract period, each individual request must include a match of 20% of that reimbursement request.

8. Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and Assurances of Non-Discrimination:  The requirements at 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 26: Participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises in Department of Transportation Financial Assistance Programs apply to all RTP grants as do the Federal Highway Administration Assurances for Title VI and Other Non-discrimination Statutes and Regulations.  Upon grant award, compliance with these regulations and completion of their subsequent documentation will be required by each grantee, under the instruction and assistance of the RTP Coordinator, before any reimbursement of funds is authorized. 

9. BUY AMERICA:  If proposing to buy a piece of equipment or construction supplies that are made with steel or iron, this activity will fall under the U.S. DOT Buy America provision – see  Steel or iron must be purchased from a U.S. source in order to comply.

10.  Upon grant award, all grantees must review and sign the Massachusetts RTP Grant AgreementThis does not need to be signed and submitted with the application materials.  However, it is advised that all applicants review this agreement before submitting proposals, to become familiar with the responsibilities and requirements associated with the grant program.

Eligible vs. Ineligible Projects

For the full Recreational Trails Program Guidance document, see

Eligible (Permissible Use) Project Categories:

  1. Construction of new recreational trails
  2. Maintenance and restoration of existing recreational trails
  3. Development and rehabilitation of recreational trailside and trailhead facilities
  4. Purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment
  5. Construction of new recreational trails
  6. Acquisition of easements and fee simple title to property for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors
  7. Assessment of Trail Conditions

Ineligible Project Categories:

  1. Condemnation of any kind of interest in property
  2. Construction of recreational trails on land where the proposed trail use is not permitted or landowner permission/support is not granted
  3. Feasibility studies
  4. Law enforcement
  5. *Planning
  6. Roads
  7. Sidewalks

*Planning activities, including but not limited to feasibility studies, conceptual designs, alternatives analyses, strategic planning, land protection prioritization and development strategies are ineligible for funding under the RTP program.  However, if an activity defined as planning constitutes less than 25% of the total proposed project value, it can be permitted and the project can be eligible for funding.  The end result of the project must be on-the-ground trail creation or maintenance, or completion of all steps leading to that point in the project.  If the end result of an activity is a written document or graphic output that is meant to guide decision-making, it is likely a planning activity.

Engineering and other activities that are deemed necessary for construction are eligible activities.  Engineering includes, but may not be limited to, surveying, engineering plans, permitting, cost estimating and development of bid specifications.  If the end result of an activity is to allow a project to be quantified, bid and constructed, it can be viewed as an “engineering” activity and thus is eligible.

Examples of planning projects (Ineligible):

  • Convening stakeholders, developing vision and goals, articulating a strategy and prioritizing projects

Examples of engineering projects (Eligible):

  • Completion of engineering plans for a trail project - with the condition that all necessary feasibility studies/conceptual designs for the project are included in the grant application.  Project proponents will be required to submit the completed plans to the RTP Coordinator before final reimbursement is paid.  If it is found that the project is incomplete or the document is limited activities ineligible for RTP funding, all reimbursements will be withheld.
  • Surveying/Assessing a trail system to document the specific type and extent of repair work needed and estimating the amount of person hours the work will take so that a repair project can be appropriately bid

Guidelines for “in-kind” match contributions


  • In-kind volunteer labor, staff time/labor and in-kind use of equipment
  • Municipal, agency, or organizational funds
  • Donations of money, labor or materials

Not allowed:

  • Match contribution that does not directly relate to the proposed project
  • Contributions that occurred prior to notification of the grant award
  • Matching contributions applied to any other grant

For more information about the program or its requirements, please contact:

Amanda Lewis
Recreational Trails Program Coordinator
136 Damon Road
Northampton, MA 01060
(413) 586-8706 ext. 19