2020 Recreational Trails Program (RTP)

RTP Application Guidance

Submit an online RTP Application through SCTrails.net (you are required to create a username and password beforehand).

Applicants are no longer asked to submit physical bound copies of their RTP Applications to SCPRT, the applications should be submitted online only.

GRANT AWARDS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SPRING 2020 / APPLICATION LINK COMING SOON

Only sponsors that have submitted Letter of Intent forms by the Sept. 9th deadline are eligible to apply. Fax copies won't be accepted.


A QUICK LOOK

How much funding does South Carolina have available for RTP grants in 2020? Approximately $1,200,000 (pending available funding)

Who can apply? Local, state and federal government agencies; qualified private organizations; and registered nonprofits (see Funding for additional requirements below)

What sorts of recreational facilities can receive a grant? Generally, recreational trails and trailhead facilities that are open to the public; these guidelines will explain the requirements and restrictions.

What is the maximum federally funded grant amount per project? $100,000^—this does not apply to motorized projects. Motorized projects are eligible for the maximum amount of motorized funding available. 
^Note: The SCPRT – State Trails Program may waive the maximum amount of an approved project if the project is determined to have statewide or regional significance. 

What is the minimum federally funded grant amount per project? $10,000

Do grant funds have to be matched? Yes—RTP requires the sponsor provide 20% of the total project cost. RTP will reimburse only up to 80% of the total project cost. Your 20% match can be contributed in the form of hard cash or approved in-kind services.

Is RTP a reimbursement grant program? Yes—you must first spend your money and then request reimbursement.

When is the application deadline? Friday, January 31, 2020 at 4 p.m.

What is the target date for award? Spring 2020 (this general date will be updated as we near the application due date)

How many copies of the grant application are required? Just the online SCTrails.net submission (physical copies are no longer necessary)

If any questions arise while preparing the application, please call the State Trails Coordinator, Neal Hamilton, at (803) 734-0735.


HISTORY

The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) administers the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) under the approval of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This federally funded program receives its funding from a portion of federal gas taxes paid on fuel used in non-highway recreational vehicles. Funds can be spent on both motorized and nonmotorized recreational trail projects to construct new recreational trails, improve/maintain existing trails, develop/improve trailhead or trailside facilities and acquire trail corridors.

Funding provided by this program is on a cost reimbursement basis. Project sponsors must initiate their approved projects with their own funds and be reimbursed up to 80 percent of allowable costs after submitting documentation of expenses. Individual trail grants can range from a minimum of $10,000 ($12,500 would be the total project cost) to $100,000 maximum ($125,000—total project cost), with the exception of the motorized projects. Motorized projects are eligible for the maximum amount of motorized funding available. Projects will be selected for funding with the help of the State Trails Advisory Committee made up of both motorized and nonmotorized trail users. Selected projects must comply with FHWA funding requirements and be in accordance with all applicable federal laws and executive orders, state and local laws and regulations.

Priorities for funding are based on the South Carolina State Trails Plan: Expanding the Experience, Trails for South Carolina (2002) and advice from South Carolina’s State Trails Advisory Committee. Projects will be evaluated in terms of their overall quality, need, public support, planning process; that adequate resources are available to execute the project; and that resources are available to adequately manage, maintain and operate the project after completion.

Private nonprofit organizations, local trail volunteer groups and private operators of recreational facilities open to the public are encouraged to work with federal, state and local government agencies to develop RTP grant applications. The State’s goal is long-term development and management of SC Trails by fostering cooperative efforts among these groups.


FUNDING

Available Funding

The Recreational Trails Program requires that not less than 30 percent of the monies received annually shall be used for uses relating to Motorized recreation and not less than 30 percent shall be used for uses relating to Nonmotorized recreation. To ensure diversified trail use, the remaining 40 percent shall be used for Diverse trail uses.

These are the minimum requirements and may be exceeded—projects are not necessarily selected exclusively in these three categories. For example, a diverse nonmotorized use (walking and biking) project may satisfy the 40% Diverse requirement and the 30% Nonmotorized requirement simultaneously. There could potentially be Diverse/Motorized projects, Diverse/Nonmotorized projects, and projects which benefit both Motorized and Nonmotorized use simultaneously. It is unnecessary for sponsors to present their projects in any single category—all Nonmotorized and Diverse projects will be ranked by score only.

Applicant Match

This is a reimbursement program; therefore, the grant recipient must pay 100% of the cost of an item before submitting a request for reimbursement for 80% of eligible costs.

For Example: $5,000 in eligible billings submitted
                        X  80%
                    = $4,000 reimbursed to grant recipient

The program allows the donation of private funds, materials, right-of-way, and services at fair market value to be counted toward the match. However, donations of pre-existing state or local government right-of-way, materials, or services cannot be credited toward the local match. This federal program allows federal funds, materials, programs (NCCC, AmeriCorps, Palmetto Conservation Corps, etc.) or services to credit 15% toward the match for a total of 95% federal. However, equipment previously purchased with federal trails funds cannot be used as project match. Only non-federal equipment can be used as project match.

Reimbursements will be made only for those items that were listed on the Project Agreement and subsequent approved amendments. Normally, requests for reimbursements are processed, and funds are dispersed within 6 to 8 weeks.

Procurement Procedure Requirements – In order to receive reimbursements, grantees are required to follow and provide documentation of procedures for the purchase and/or rental of materials, the rental of equipment, and contract services associated with any awarded grant.


ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS/SPONSORS

Eligible sponsors include state, federal and municipal government agencies or qualified private organizations. Private organizations include for-profit or registered nonprofit organizations that operate recreational facilities open to the public. The trails program encourages community-based partnerships.

Nonprofit organizations must meet all of the following requirements to be determined eligible to receive RTP grant funds:

  • Nonprofit organizations which are registered at the time of application with the Secretary of State under South Carolina's Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act are eligible. Nonprofit organizations need to include a copy of their confirmation letter of registration with their project application. For additional information, see South Carolina’s Secretary of State's official website (http://www.scsos.com/) or call 803-734-1790.
  • Nonprofit organizations determined at the time of application by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be a tax-exempt organization pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are eligible. All nonprofit organizations need to include a copy of their IRS tax-exempt letter with their project application.
  • An organization described in section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code which engages in lobbying activities is not eligible.

For-profit and Nonprofit applicants are required to have at least one full-time employee on their staff that can be reached during normal business hours. In addition, the organization's personnel must demonstrate financial ability to execute the project and maintain/operate a deed-restricted property for twenty-five years.

For-profit organizations which are approved for funding will have additional requirements in their Project Agreement.


PERMITTED USES

  • Construction of new recreational trails open to the public on state, county, municipal or private lands where a recreational need for such construction is shown
  • Construction of new recreation trails crossing federal land if the project is consistent with resources management plans—approval will be contingent upon compliance with all applicable laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
  • Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages for recreational trails—trailside and trailhead facilities include trail components or associated facilities which serve the purpose and safe use of the recreational trail, and may include, but are not limited to, the following: drainage, crossings, stabilization, parking, signage, controls, shelters, hitching rails, bike racks, fencing, motorized access barriers, underpasses, and water, sanitary, and access facilities
  • Acquisition of easements or fee simple title from a willing seller to property for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors—only governmental agencies are allowed to purchase property
  • Maintenance and restoration of existing recreational trails
  • Lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment 
  • Provide access and use of recreational trails by persons with disabilities
  • Redesign, reconstruction, nonroutine maintenance or relocation of recreational trails to benefit the natural environment or to mitigate and minimize the impact to the natural environment
  • No more than 5% of total project costs on construction engineering or planning costs (environmental evaluation and documentation, permits or approvals)

USES NOT PERMITTED

  • Condemnation of any kind of interest in property
  • Construction of new recreation trails for motorized use on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands that have been recommended for Wilderness designation
  • Upgrading, expanding, or otherwise facilitating motorized use or access to recreational trails predominantly used by nonmotorized recreational trail users and on which, as of May 1, 1991, motorized use was prohibited or had not occurred
  • Road construction or sidewalks
  • Purchase of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment
  • Administrative staff time, overhead or indirect charges are not allowable charges
  • Feasibility studies
  • Playground equipment
  • Exercise station equipment

POINTS OF INTEREST

  • Your project should be shovel ready by May 2020. If not, please do not apply in this cycle; wait until the next RTP cycle to apply.
  • Project sponsors may submit up to two applications in a grant cycle.
  • Projects will be required to meet a minimum score of 120 points to be determined eligible.
  • Projects will be awarded in the order they're ranked in—Nonmotorized and Diverse projects will be ranked by their application score only—as a single category—Motorized projects will ranked separately with other Motorized projects. (SCPRT will handle placing projects in their appropriate categories. There are times when additional funds become available from projects that came in under budget and for various other reasons. If this occurs, the additional funds will be offered to the next highest scoring project that was not originally funded.)
  • We are unable to score incomplete applications. Incomplete applications will be returned without consideration for funding.
  • The RTP requires a match. The share attributable to RTP may not exceed 80 percent of the total project cost. Funds from federal sources may be attributed to the project, which could bring the total federal share to 95 percent. The sponsor must provide the remaining project amount from a non-federal source.
  • Project costs are eligible only if they are incurred after the project has been approved, awarded and the Project Agreement has been signed. Sponsors cannot be reimbursed for work done prior to Agreement date.
  • Project sponsors will have 18 months to complete the project after the Project Agreement has been signed.
  • Grant funds will be paid on a reimbursement basis.
  • If admission, user or other fees are charged for the use of the land, facilities or buildings that were rehabilitated, developed or acquired with funding from the RTP, the fee structure must be reasonable and cannot be discriminatory to non-residents of the local area. The fee structure and use of program income will have to be approved by the SCPRT - State Trails Program and be specified in the Project Agreement.
  • Up to 5% of the total project amount may be expended on construction engineering or planning costs (environmental evaluation and documentation, permits or approvals).
  • Projects should solicit Disadvantaged Businesses when contracting out work.
  • Project sponsors are encouraged to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth service and conservation corps, such as the Palmetto Conservation Corps.
  • Projects that involve new construction or renovation of facilities must provide access in accordance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Projects which are approved for funding for work on public lands will be required to enter into a separate agreement with the agency (or agencies) to undertake the work.
  • Projects which are approved for funding for work on private lands must enter into an easement or other legally binding agreement that ensures public access to their recreational trail.
  • Projects shall comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
  • Federal Agencies who are awarded an RTP Project should involve the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), South Carolina Division as a Cooperating Agency on all NEPA work. Non-Federal Agencies awarded should involve FHWA, SC Division as the Lead Federal Agency on all NEPA work.
  • Projects shall comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws, rules and regulations.
  • Projects shall comply with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Supercircular.
  • Projects which are approved for funding may require additional documentation prior to receiving a Project Agreement. It is the responsibility of the Project Sponsor to secure the required documentation and submit it to SCPRT - State Trails Program.
  • Projects which are approved to acquire an easement or purchase land in fee simple, will be required to comply with the terms of Title II and Title III of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policy Act of 1970 and the applicable requirement and procedures implementing such Act and other provision of federal laws and executive orders as identified under the Project Agreement. Acquired property will be restricted subject to Section 6(f)(3) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Only governmental agencies are allowed to purchase property.
  • All project sponsors will be required to attend a fiscal briefing before receiving a signed Project Agreement.
  • Because of the competitive review process, an increase in funding or significant changes in project scope will not be considered.

APPLICATION PROCESS

Applicants must have submitted a Recreational Trails Program 2020 Letter of Intent form by the Sept. 9, 2019 deadline to be eligible to apply for RTP funds. All applicants must submit their application through SCTrails.net. It is mandatory that all applicants use the most recent application and follow the instructions provided below carefully on how to submit your online application. 

The following instructions are provided to assist you in development of your RTP application:

  • Incomplete applications will not be considered for funding and will be returned to the applicant—without being scored. Do not leave any sections blank, use "N/A" when appropriate.
  • No late or fax applications will be accepted.
  • Physical applications are no longer required, there is no longer a need to mail a physical bound application to SCPRT.
  • Provide enough detail in your project description so that the SC Trails Review Team can clearly understand your project. 
  • All supporting materials, such as maps and drawings, must be no larger than 8.5” x 11”. 
  • Please be sure to scan your support documentation in color. Otherwise, the review team won’t be able to interpret trail routes accurately.

Applicants must submit an online application by 4 p.m., Jan. 31, 2020.

Start early and finish early—applications received after the deadline will be returned unopened to the applicant and will not be graded.

Please remember to save your application for future reference. If you're in need of assistance, call the State Trails Coordinator, Neal Hamilton, at (803) 734-0735.


ONLINE APPLICATION TIPS

To complete an RTP Application—once your Letter of Intent has been submitted and approved—visit [link coming soon]. You will then be asked to sign in, or create a SCTrails.net profile (username and password). Once your login information has been set up, please write this down and keep in a safe place (you could also make a note in your phone). At this point, applicants should be able to view the 2020 RTP Application webpage.

Please input your information accordingly into the online application. Fields that are required will have an asterisks (*), you may input “N/A” if that question/field is not applicable to your project.

To save your project application, so you can return to working on it later, simply click the “Save as Draft” button. There is one located at the beginning of the application—in between Sponsor Information and “Sponsor Name”—there is another “Save as Draft” button at the very end of the application on the right-hand side.


BUDGET INFORMATION

A detailed summary of request and match expenses for your project must be completed in the Financial Information / Detailed Budget section. Please only list items on budget summary sheet that have a direct link to the completion of project and are eligible for RTP reimbursement. Individual items and expenses may be adjusted or denied at the discretion of SCPRT.

Grant recipients must be able to finance the project while periodically requesting reimbursement. 

BUDGET SECTION GUIDANCE

Acceptable In-Kind Matches and Expenditures:

  • Volunteer Labor - Work performed outside of the workers/volunteers professional capacity (skilled and unskilled labor) — $23.21 per hour
  • Skilled Labor - Work performed within the worker/volunteer's professional capacity — must provide proper documentation showing the individual's hourly rate
  • Service Contracts - Contracted services for any combination of labor, equipment rental and operation, and/or materials
  • Design & Engineering - May be included, only through use of a professionally licensed engineer or trail design planner — total cost may not exceed 5% of total project cost
  • Land Acquisition - Appraised value of land — applications submitted for land acquisition must include development of recreational trail
  • Donated Land - Appraised value of land donated after fully executed agreement with SCPRT with proper documentation of land value
  • Materials - Materials needed to complete project such as, lumber, steel, fasteners, concrete, stone, culverts, mulch, seed, etc.
  • Donated Materials - Fair market value of materials donated to project with proper documentation from provider
  • Trail Signs & Trailside Amenities - Educational/interpretative signage, shelters, benches, trash receptacles, lights, kiosks, etc.
  • Equipment - FEMA equipment rates – see website at fema.gov/schedule-equipment-rates  

CHECK LIST