RTP gets impressive showing of online support
The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) successfully showcased the importance of the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) in a new, high-visibility venue: The Strategic Plan Online Dialogue of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
CRT members reviewed the DOT’s Draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014-2018 in early September and were very concerned that there was no mention of the RTP within the DOT mission statement, mission-oriented goals or strategic objectives. On behalf of the CRT membership, co-chair Derrick Crandall submitted comments to DOT that called attention to this oversight, summarizing the RTP’s importance in its opening paragraphs:
“The Recreational Trails Program . . . has been a vital force in creating and assisting trails for all enthusiasts — in urban and rural locations alike. The program has unified America’s trails community nationally and at the state level and is built around a simple concept: federal gas tax paid in conjunction with non-highway recreation should be used, at least in part, to benefit those paying the taxes and other trail users sharing a dependency on safe, accessible trails.
“The DOT should expand the part of its Strategic Plan dealing with livable communities by recognizing the substantial contribution to livability provided by recreational trails under the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which the DOT has administered for more than 20 years. More than 20,000 projects have been funded since the program’s creation by the U.S. Congress. These projects serve millions of people.”
The comments also pointed out that strong national support for RTP, which had carried it through a very difficult reauthorization process in 2012, made the case for its inclusion in the DOT Strategic Plan even more compelling:
“Support for the program from all trail interests persuaded the Congress to reauthorize it nearly unchanged in 2012 through MAP-21 — surprising many. But it didn’t surprise us. Accordingly, the Coalition for Recreational Trails strongly recommends that the DOT Strategic Plan embrace the Recreational Trails Program as an inspiring DOT success story.”
By the time the idea submission and voting process had ended — only three days after the CRT submitted its comments — CRT’s submission, titled “RTP Is Important Plan Element,” was voted the most popular of all the ideas submitted to the DOT.
CRT co-chairs Crandall and Marianne Fowler both commented on this incredible showing.
“There were 287 ideas submitted and 3,967 votes cast,” Crandall said. “CRT’s submission finished #1 with 215 votes and 24 comments. The next highest tally was 71 votes and five comments for ‘More Emphasis on Transit, Biking, Walking.’ Not far behind in #4 was ‘Recreational Trails Are an Essential Part of Livable Communities,’ with 61 votes. In 13th place was ‘Return OHV Gas Tax to OHV Recreation’ with 30 votes and ‘Recreational Trails Program’ was in 27th place with 20 votes. Overall, the four RTP ‘ideas’ attracted almost 10 percent of all votes.”
Added Fowler, “Without question, RTP ran away with the Secretary’s blog. Perhaps this summer’s ‘No Opt-Out’ campaign, which was successful in keeping 49 of 50 states in the program, had heightened people’s awareness and they wanted to speak their minds — and they certainly did.”