got a minute? (the deadline is Friday)

From the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy…

On June 22, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released a draft of the next multi-year federal surface transportation bill. However, the bill does not assign dollar amounts to any bill priorities. That’s where you can help ensure active transportation programs are adequately funded.

The T&I Committee leadership is currently accepting input on how funding should be assigned among different programs. Representatives Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) are circulating a “dear colleague” letter that requests $690 million over six years to fund the Recreation Trails Program (RTP). (For more on the RTP, including some standout examples, see below.) After congressional signatures are affixed, the letter is forwarded to the committee.

We have until this Friday, July 17, to act. Please ask your representative to sign this letter now.

Find out who your congressperson is now. If you already know who your congressperson is, locate the office phone number or call the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to be connected directly to your representative’s office. Once connected, please ask:

As a constituent, I am calling to ask that Rep. [Last] please sign on to the Michaud-Petri “dear colleague” letter, assigning specific funding amounts to the Recreation Trails Program. Do you know if Rep. [Last] will be signing the letter? [If they don’t know…] Can I leave my contact information to hear back about Rep. [Last]’s decision?

Once you have called, please let us know. Tracking our progress is critical to ensure that we have the best possible information when we follow up on your phone calls.

What is the RTP?

The RTP is one of the hidden gems of the entire transportation bill. RTP funds small trail projects—often on connectors that allow access to longer trails, and often relying upon both the Youth Conservation Corps and local nonprofits. RTP-funded projects favor trails in need of restoration or maintenance, particularly those that might have environmentally damaging features, such as an erosive stream crossing. The program serves an important role by providing federal funds to support local communities’ needs and priorities.

Take, for example, the Highbridge Park Project in New York City, winner of the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) 2009 “Environment and Wildlife Compatibility” Award. Since construction began on the park’s trails in 2005, 1,200 hypodermic needles and truckloads of trash have been removed, neighborhood children have been enlisted as park caretakers, trail design has protected sensitive areas, and work parties have removed invasive species.

Another outstanding example is the Giant’s Stairs Trail Project on Bailey Island, Maine, winner of CRT’s 2009 “Education and Communication” Award. Responding to significant local opposition, the trail crew working on the 2.5-acre project site did an exemplary job of explaining the importance and difficulty of their work to the community. With the public convinced of its value, the project was completed by a partnership between a Maine Conservation Corps Mini-Team, local volunteers from nearby Bowdoin College, the Boy Scouts and community members.

These are but a few examples of the outstanding projects funded by the RTP. For more information on the RTP, see the Coalition for Recreational Trails Web site.

Please take a minute now and ask your congressional representative to support the RTP using the instructions above. Thank you.

For local readers, let me save you a little time. The representative for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District (which includes Lenawee County) is Mark H. Shauer. His phone number is 212-225-6276.

Remember: recreation trails benefit more than just cyclists.

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