Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kansas opts out of federal Recreational Trails Program

September 11, 2012


TOPEKA — Kansas is one of only two states that has opted out of the federal Recreational Trails Program, officials said Tuesday.

News of the development brought criticism from trail enthusiasts, plus a call to action.

“This opt-out is a blow to Kansas trail development, for sure, but it’s hardly the last word on the subject,” said a posting on the Kansas Cyclist website. “All of us need to contact our elected officials and voice our disappointment with this decision. Tell them we value trails, both as recreation and transportation.”

A Kansas Department of Transportation official said the state opted out to gain more leeway in how it can spend federal dollars.

“It gives us maximum flexibility,” said Chris Herrick, director of planning and development at KDOT.

That flexibility is needed, Herrick said, because under the recently approved federal transportation law, Kansas saw a $26 million reduction in federal funds, from $392 million to $366 million.

Of that amount, $10.3 million was earmarked for what are called transportation alternative projects, Herrick said. Of the $10.3 million, the feds said $1.3 million was to be spent on recreational trails, or states could opt out and a portion of that amount can be spent on other projects, Herrick said.

Kansas and Florida opted out.

He said no decision has been made yet on how to spend that money, and said some of the funds may eventually be spent on recreational trails.

“We haven’t made a decision on where we are going to spend that kind of money,” he said. “We are getting $26 million less from the previous transportation bill. Revenue is tight.”

Keith Laughlin, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, criticized the federal transportation bill, saying it created more ways for states to transfer funds away from hiking and biking trails programs.

Kansas’ decision to opt out, Laughlin said, “was in truth quite a surprise.” He said the group will continue working with state officials in Kansas “to improve future outcomes.”


Claire Williams 5 years, 9 months ago

This is a shame.

There are several great on-going rail to trail projects (the old line from Topeka which goes through Richland comes to mind immediately) which could desperately use that money to complete their project. Those trails are not your standard 1-mile loop recreation trail, but when completed, would allow one to walk across Kansas safely and easily.

There are still many of us who value the recreational benefits the great outdoors can offer us, without need for multi-million dollar rec centers.

Claire Williams 5 years, 9 months ago

You've got a few of your facts mixed up, I'm afraid.

The "bridge to nowhere" you speak of does go somewhere-- it is actually part of the Flint Hills Nature Trail, a close to 120 mile long trail from Osawatomie to Herington. In addition, it was not recently constructed-- it is an old train bridge that has been there for a very long time. Here's a google street view of it. Perhaps you are thinking of this "bridge to nowhere" in Shawnee Co. built only last year?

While only about half of the Flint Hills trail is completed (complete= brush cleared, handrails on bridges,new crushed limestone put down), the entire length is navigable to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

Not sure if you're just uninformed, or intentionally omitting pertinent info, but you don't mention that the nearly $1 million spent on that project so far was ALL put up by private contributions and fundraising efforts, not through a dime of state funding. All of the equipment used has been donated, all of the workers are volunteers. Even the Kanza Rail Trail conservancy is a private entity. I've personally cleared brush from parts of the similar Landon Nature Trail project near Richland. So don't put it as being such a huge waste of taxpayer money, when it hasn't used ANY.

Sorry if not all of the hundreds that use the FHNT every year directly report to you when they make the crossing at Lyndon.

For anyone interested, here is an article from June about the FHNT.

And here is the official website for those interested about the excellent hiking and biking opportunities available in our own local communities.

kawrivercrow 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for info Claire. Can't wait until these trails are compacted enough to ride a road bike on like the Katy Trail in Missouri.

Claire Williams 5 years, 9 months ago

It's not accessible to bikes in all areas yet (for example, the often primitive FHNT is a section of this trail), but this is the official site for the American Discovery Trail, which is just that-- a coast to coast trail!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

This shows exactly why this funding was rejected-- it's 100% ideological, because "everyone knows" that people who use bike and hike trails are all homosexual communist baby killers who want to waste the money of God's people.

kawrivercrow 5 years, 9 months ago

OK Big B, let's make a deal. We don't spend a single penny of your tax dollars on projects like this and we don't spend a single penny of my tax dollars on any medical condition related to poor diet and lack of exercise.

I would love to just say NO as loud as you would.


Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 9 months ago

Claire, thank you for your comment. People throughout this country are obese. They often do not care about nature. These trails are so important, and will become more important, as people finally get the idea in their heads that they can enjoy nature and wildlife!

And, as you so clearly point out, this money has been privately raised. I, personally, would be happy to see federal money used for trails throughout Kansas.

It could become a state much more inclined to have its own people, as well as many tourists, experience this part of the country, instead of just sitting inside, watching television, and growing more obese. Sorry to be so clear about that, but that's exactly what happens when you sit inside and don't do anything.

question4u 5 years, 9 months ago

Kansas ranks last among states in amount of public land. That clearly isn't a selling point for young people, or anyone else who values recreation. Adding trails isn't likely to entice anyone to move to Kansas, but as one part of a quality of life issue it might make some younger people at least a little less likely to want to leave.

somebodynew 5 years, 9 months ago

"He said no decision has been made yet on how to spend that money"

Yes, it has. That will replace the money they just stole from KDOT to spend on the Visitor's Center at the giant Money Pit downtown.

WilburM 5 years, 9 months ago

This isn't a lot of money, but -- as with the de-funding of the Kansas Arts commission -- is very important symbolically. As a whole, the state can express its support of those things that enrich our lives. Not to say that trails and arts don't have economic benefits (e.g., Katy Trail in Missouri). But we impoverish our state culturally, while simultaneously giving tax breaks to those who need them the least.

And of course Governor Brownback can express his support for fitness, while taking an action that diminishes the state's ability to encourage it.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 9 months ago

Yet another forward-thinking decision that'll undoubtedly get people to move to Kansas in droves.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 9 months ago

One million dollars these days builds less than a mile of highway, and yet it would be the entire set of trail projects likely to be spent by the state. The Lawrence Journal World recently ran an article about how meaningful the wheelchair accessible trails are for folks with disabilities, and as our state's average age continues to go up and we even recruit our area as a retirement haven, this total lack of leadership should be added to the list of shortsighted throwing the baby out with the bathwater moves by the Brownback Administration.

Joe Blackford II 5 years, 9 months ago

I witnessed Gov. Brownback laud the Rails to Trails program on 14 July 2012 at the dedication of the Kansas River Water Trail in Manhattan.

I'll bet all the other dignitaries present were blindsided by Brownback's opting out of the federal Recreational Trails Program.

I'll have to watch closer the next time, I was positive he only spoke out of one side of his mouth at a time.

Jd Finch 5 years, 9 months ago

Excellent comments Claire; I'd agree that KS' decision is probably shortsighted. The preventive med/ cycling/ hiking community needs a more powerful lobby in DC. The fed bill shouldn't have allowed states to opt out of designating money for trails without losing that money. I'd wager that those states that did not opt out (the other 48) will not, unless forced, use that pot of cash for trail upkeep.

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

Yet another befuddling announcement from Sam Brownback. By the time he's finished Kansas will just be a pile of smoldering rubble.

Clark Coan 5 years, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of defunding trails. This summer Congress eliminated the Transportation Enhancements Program which has funded the development of scores of trails in Kansas over the last 20 years. For example, the Burroughs Creek Trail in East Lawrence was partially funded by the TE program.The new transportation law is called 21st Century MAP-21 and substitutes Transportation Alternatives for the TEP program. Under the TA program, funding will decrease 33% to $800 million/year. This means that Kansas will get around $7.3 million/year. The problem is states can opt-out and transfer up to 50% to any other programs such as highways.

The problem is many Kansas politicians want to spend money on highways (and highway contractors) and prisons and nothing else.

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