Thursday, June 10, 2010

NC Adopt A Trail program in danger!

Yesterday I received a form email from Kate Dixon, the Executive director of the NC Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, or FMST. The jist of the email was that due to budget constraints, the NC Senate had voted to remove AAT funding from the state budget. In the NC House, AAT funding had been retained at it's current year level of  $108,000. As the NC House and Senate go into discussion to make their two budgets match, complete defunding of the Adopt A Trail program is not only a possibility but a likelihood.

Kate Dixon "The biggest problem we face in saving Adopt-A-Trail is that legislators don't know about it. That's why it is so important for you to contact your legislators to let them know what it has done in your community and on trails you love.
If we lose all funding for the program, it will be much harder to resurrect it in the future. If you haven't contacted your legislator before, this really is the time to do it. If you contacted them a couple of weeks ago -- please do it again. They are so busy that they will probably have forgotten your note, and they will appreciate the reminder about a program they know little or nothing about."

MST Work

This got me thinking.. Adopt A Trail seems like a good name, I think I know what it does, but I wanted to know more. One Google search later, I found the NCPARKS PDF document concerning AAT and read through it. The highlights were:

• Trail brochures, website information, promotional media
• New trail construction
• Repair/renovation of trails
• Trail head or trail side facilities items included: horse tie-racks, bike racks, ORV loading
ramps, canoe access points, and trail-head parking
• Rental of trail construction and maintenance tools and equipment
• Acquisition of construction and maintenance equipment with unit value less than $500
each and equipment rental fees
• Engineering studies and/or environmental studies, provided that these services are
required by the appropriate land managing agency in order to complete a trail or trail
segment (this requirement must be in writing from the appropriate land managing agency
and attached to the application).

North Carolina will award AAT grants to projects that are:
• On lands owned in fee simple or easements that are held in perpetuity by a governmental
agency provided that the public is allowed use of the trail or facilities.
• On lands owned in fee simple or easements that are held in perpetuity by a non-profit
organization provided that the public is allowed use of the trail or facilities.
• On lands that are leased by a governmental agency or non-profit organization for a
minimum of 10 years.

Further down the document is the scoring criteria for awarding grants up to $5000 per agency. The criteria includes trail connectivity, trail ownership, trail availability and others.

This program is obviously not capable of funding the entire MST construction or AT maintenance, but is a godsend for organizers seeking a seed. Acquiring a small grant is normally the first step to generating public awareness and can be instrumental in providing tools, materials, and inspiration for volunteer trail workers who didn't believe it could be done.. 

I am asking you to take a minute to draft an email or make a brief call to your representative and urge them to study the document. Express your support for this essential program and request they keep an eye and ear out for discussions about the Adopt a Trail Program. Suggest to them that the taxes generated from Thru-Hiker purchases along the MST can easily repay the $108,000 annual cost to the state, if we can only generate more interest. Day hikers across the state have lunch and dinner near trail heads, shop in local gear stores, purchase gas and pay taxes in this great state. The NC Government is making money off our trails and their use, why shouldn't they be protected?

Contact information for House and Senate

Please, do the right thing by our children and help us keep the trail movement growing! Contact me here if you have any questions!

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