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PALMER — Today, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced $1.8 million in 49 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants to community trail projects throughout the Commonwealth, which will construct over 10 miles of new trails and structures and will improve over 150 miles of existing recreational trails within the statewide trail network. The grants are awarded for construction and maintenance of a variety of public trails, such as hiking trails, bikeways, and snowmobile and off-road vehicle trails. As part of the administration’s commitment to expand and connect trail networks across the state, Governor Charlie Baker announced in June 2017 that the RTP budget would be increased by 60 percent.
“Massachusetts is home to hundreds of miles of trails offering healthy, outdoor recreational and transit opportunities and today’s awards will help communities increase accessibility and build and maintain many more,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration has prioritized the statewide trails system, which connects communities and improves quality of life throughout the state, and I am grateful to our partners for working to ensure these trails are available for generations to come.”
“The Recreational Trails Program grants directly support the maintenance of hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, parklands, and reservations and ensure visitors of all ages across Massachusetts have the opportunity to enjoy our parklands,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Investing in the well-being of our communities means ensuring natural resources are protected and made available for all to appreciate and enjoy.”
RTP grants can be used to improve long-distance trails and rail trail development, ATV trail maintenance, and the creation and/or maintenance of municipally owned trails. This year’s trail improvements include trail drainage; surfacing and trail erosion control; structure construction; installation of directional trail signage and kiosks; printing and development of maps and brochures; purchasing of trail maintenance equipment; trailhead parking area construction and/or improvements; and upgrading existing trails to accessible trail standards. Additionally, each recipient matches awarded grants with a minimum of twenty percent in funding or in-kind services for the designated project. This year’s matching funds totaled $1,736,278.
“With these awards, the Baker-Polito Administration has prioritized responsible construction projects that will conserve our natural resources while enhancing the enjoyment of hikers, cyclists, snowmobilers and others who benefit from these trails,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton. “I’m excited to support the work of our local officials and organizations who have presented us with excellent ideas for increasing outdoor recreation, and I congratulate them on receiving this year’s awards.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to investing in low GHG transportation options that will connect people to the places they want to go. MassDOT is proud of the close partnerships we continue to develop with state and local agencies as well as businesses and non-profit organizations to build more pieces of the important regional walking and biking network,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “That so many people will use these trails for recreation and transportation makes these great investments; that these investments will responsibly support access to the scenic beauty of the Commonwealth is icing on the cake.”
Funding for the grant program is received directly from the motor fuel excise tax on off-road vehicles including ATV’s and snowmobiles, and is provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Surface Transportation Act, in coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). All RTP grant applications have been reviewed by the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board (MARTAB), which is an independent volunteer board appointed by the DCR Commissioner.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is thrilled to support 49 innovative proposals, which will strengthen the connections between our cities and towns, as well as the friends, families and neighbors who use their trails year round,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy. “With nearly half a million acres of protected space, the DCR is proud to support its partners who have stepped up to support their own state parks and forests.”
“Massachusetts has a tremendous inventory of remarkable open spaces, and a great network of trails that allow us to access them,” said State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “The investment of these grants not only strengthens these precious resources, it also captures even further their power to improve our quality of life.”
“I would like to congratulate the communities in my district that were awarded grants,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “In a region with so much to offer in terms of outdoor recreation, these grants go a long way towards ensuring that the areas we currently enjoy are preserved and protected for both the present and future generation.”
In order to meet their funding obligation, an organization is able to utilize a variety of methods to fund at least twenty percent of the project’s total cost to receive the grant. Methods include in-kind labor and professional services, material donations, use of equipment, or a cash match. Furthermore, RTP allocates thirty percent of its funds for motorized use, thirty percent for non-motorized use, and forty percent for diverse use projects. Funding is made available to registered non-profits and municipal, state, and federal agencies.
“As a Berkshire native, I am grateful to the DCR and the Baker administration for recognizing the great work of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and others, in preserving and protecting the natural assets of the Berkshires for future generations,” said State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox). “It is always great to see state government coming together with local organizations in partnership to protect the environment and increase the access of all the Commonwealth’s residents to forests, parklands, and reservations.”
“I’m very excited that these funds will be available to Brimfield and Palmer this year,” said State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren). “The Recreational Trails Program increases the opportunity for Massachusetts residents to get out and enjoy the outdoors in a sustainable way.”
“The Town of Palmer is honored and excited to be a recipient of the 2017 Recreational Trails Program Grant,” said Angela Panaccione, Conservation Agent for the Town of Palmer. “We are privileged to be able to bring our vision to life by creating a universally accessible trail that is not just a route from here to there, but rather a place to reconnect people of all ages and abilities with the natural environment. Though only 1/4mi, our focus was more on the experiences of the trail and the outdoors; seeking to encourage visitors to linger and rest while they enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the Swift River.”
This year’s awardees are:
Recently, the DCR and the MARTAB announced the opening of registration for the fifth annual Massachusetts Trails Conference, which will take place starting on November 2, 2017, in the City of Leominster. For more information regarding the trails conference, where participants will join in on hands-on workshops, field trips, and sessions lead by trail experts, please visit the agency’s website.