IL Recreational Trails Grant Program

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

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Grant amount: Up to US $1,500,000

Deadline: Mar 14, 2019 3:00pm PDT

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit For-Profit Business College / University Elementary / Secondary School

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Illinois

Location of residency: Illinois

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Recreational Trails Program (RTP)

The Recreational Trails Program is offered annually through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). This is a reimbursement grant program that provides up-to-80 percent project funding. This grant program is federally funded and is administered by the IDNR in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The RTP provides 80% reimbursement funding assistance on approved projects. No maximum grant award amount is set for acquisition projects and for motorized projects.

Under the RTP program any property being acquired, leased, already owned, and/or used for the trail project contained within this grant application must have been acquired following the rules set for in the Federal Uniform Relocation Act and contained in Attachment 5: Land Acquisition Criteria and Procedures. The Recreational Trails Program mandates that not less than 30 percent of the monies received annually shall be reserved for uses relating to motorized recreational trail use and not less than 30 percent shall be reserved for uses relating to non-motorized recreational trail use. 

Funding Priorities

It is the current policy of the IDNR and Illinois Greenways & Trails Council to place the highest priority for use of the non-motorized trail portion of annual RTP funding to assist with equestrian use; hiking/cross-country skiing; mountain bike and water trail projects; and projects that promote development or enhancement of the American Discovery Trail and Grand Illinois Trail. 

Priorities for use of the motorized trail portion of annual RTP funding are projects proposing linear trail development, especially well developed long distance trails; connector trails linking several existing trails; or multiple use trails; initial development of motorized facilities; locations in areas (counties) of high demand as determined by population and/or number of users in the area; ones that produce minimal adverse environmental and social effects; provide the most long term, stable management potential; and land acquisition in perpetuity or long term leases. 

The following types of projects are eligible for RTP funding:

  • New recreational trail construction for motorized and non-motorized use (may include site clearing and grading, surfacing, drainage, bridging, access control devices, fencing & signs) 
  • Trail maintenance/restoration (includes trail damage by unauthorized users)
  • Trailside and trailhead facilities (for example parking, access roads, shelters, restrooms, potable water, architectural/engineering services, etc.) 
  • Purchase/lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment
  • Land acquisition of property in fee simple title, permanent easements, or long term leases from willing sellers for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors 
  • Educational programs promoting trail safety and environmental protection (These projects cannot exceed 5 percent of Illinois’s annual RTP apportionment.)

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • RTP funding is available to:
    • Federal, state and local government agencies, not-for-profits organizations and private operators of motorized recreational facilities open to the public. 
  • NFP’s who reside outside of Illinois may only apply if the property to be developed is in Illinois and currently owned by them, leased by them, or they have an easement on it.)
  • The RTP program can provide up to 80% federal funding on approved projects and requires a minimum 20% non-federal funding match.
    • Project sponsors will be reimbursed up to 80 percent of the total cost of acquisition, development, maintenance or rehabilitation undertaken.
    • The remaining share of the project costs will be borne by the project sponsor. 
  • The RTP program requires a non-refundable application fee.
    • This fee is calculated as ¼ of 1% (0.0025%) of the grant request.
    • There is a minimum fee of $100 and a maximum fee of $300.
  • There is no limit on the number of individual grants that one entity can apply for.
    • Only one grant will be awarded to any applicant during a grant cycle however.
    • The only exception to this rule is if the acquisition portion of the proposed project constitutes an eligible land donation that will be used by the project applicant as either part of or the entire required project grant match.


  • To ensure diversified trail use, at least 40 percent will be used for both motorized and non-motorized use, but preference will be given to projects with the greatest number of compatible recreational uses and/or that which provide for innovative recreational corridor sharing to accommodate motorized and non-motorized recreational trails.


  • Grant assistance from this program cannot be used for the following purposes:
    • condemnation of any kind of interest in property;
    • construction of any motorized use trail on U.S. Forest Service lands designated as wilderness or currently not authorized for such use by an approved management plan; or
    • upgrading, expanding or otherwise facilitating motorized use or access to trails predominantly used by non-motorized trail users, and on which, as of May 1, 1991, motorized use is either prohibited or has not occurred.
  • The following types of projects are not eligible for RTP funding
    • Projects that, either in whole or in part, will not be open to the general public for the specified use of the proposed trail/trail site during reasonable hours and reasonable days throughout the year;
    • Projects that, through the Cultural Resources, Endangered Species & Wetland Review (CERP) have had a determination that an Archeological Survey will be required on the property to be acquired or developed; 
    • Condemnation of any kind of interest in property ;
    • Construction of any trail on National Forest Service lands for motorized uses unless such lands have been allocated for uses other than wilderness by an approved agency resources management plan or have been released to uses other than wilderness by an Act of Congress, and such construction is otherwise consistent with the management direction specified in such approved land and resource management plan;
    • Upgrading, expanding or otherwise facilitating motorized uses or access to trails predominantly used by non-motorized trail users, and on which, as of May 1, 1991, motorized use is either prohibited or has not occurred.