Rivers, Trails, and Conservaton Assistance Program
Small treasures close to home add immeasurable value to your community.
A cool running creek to splash in on a hot summer day, a pathway that
invites us into the outdoors, a historic building or a cherished valley
viewthese special places help to give your community its personality
Do you feel these beloved resources vanishing, never to be enjoyed
by future generations? Are these places becoming neglected or simply
disappearing? You and your neighbors can play the crucial role in preserving
the resources you value. Working together, you and the Rivers, Trails,
and Conservation Assistance program (RTCA) can:
- Link together parks, schoolyards, open spaces, and residential
areas with a network of safe, quiet greenways.
- Put the natural sparkle back into a neglected waterway.
- Recycle an abandoned railroad right-of-way into a trail for people
in walking shoes, on bicycles, in wheelchairs, on crosscountry skis,
in baby carriages, or on roller skates.
- Preserve open space for trees and animals, helping bring nature
back to your city or town.
- Teach conservation-minded landowners how to ensure that their property
is forever treated with the same care they have shown.
- Use your community's natural surroundings, culture, and history
as a focus for educational and cultural activities, community celebrations,
Just as citizens in hundreds of communities around the country have
done, you can seize opportunities like these and find ways to manage
and conserve local assets with the help of the RTCA program. The program
can bring the knowledge and experience gained in protecting America's
great national parks to your conservation project. We can help you solve
local problems, without federal ownership or control.
Citizens, landowners, and local officials who care about your community's
future are the people who will make these projects successful. The Rivers,
Trails, and Conservation Assistance program is here to help coordinate
planning and project work. The partnerships forged by RTCA stress local
leadership and local implementation.
The RTCA program helps communities protect rivers, trails, and greenways
on lands outside the federal domain and without federal ownership. By
lending the broad skills and high credibility of the National Park Service
to local projects, we help other groups achieve their goals.
RTCA is based on the principle of partnerships. By working together,
residents, landowners, government agencies, and private organizations
can meet the challenges of conservation. The National Park Service works
with all of these groups to help them establish goals, resolve difficult
issues, and reach consensus on how community resources should be used
and managed. We become involved at the request of the community, serving
as a catalyst for local action.
RTCA acts in partnership with a range of other organizations. Grassroots
groups provide the critical energy to move a project from conception
to completion. Every river, trail, or other important place can have
a group of "Friends," a protective association, or a land trust. If
yours does not, RTCA can help you form one.
Regional and state organizations can coordinate and support local groups
and act as umbrella organizations that make local group efforts more
visible and effective. National nonprofit groups can help share information
and ideas around the country. The RTCA staff can help link you and your
local group with such groups and their broad constituencies.
Types of Assistance
RTCA is committed to assisting projects in ways that produce measurable,
tangible results in a relatively short time. We can provide you with
information about a specific procedure or issue, or develop longterm,
working relationships with you and your local community.
RTCA provides the following types of assistance:
River, Trail, and Greenway Planning
RTCA helps communities move projects from the idea to the reality.
We lend expertise in ecology, consensus-building, trail design,
and river access. We can help you harness public involvement to
identify resources, understand the issues, set goals, and choose
among the alternatives. RTCA also helps projects find ways to attract
the financial support that leads to tangible results.
Efforts to conserve natural places often need to be reconciled
with other needs. Making choices in these cases is difficult. RTCA
helps states or large metropolitan regions inventory and evaluate
their significant river and trail corridors. Each assessment is
tailored to specific regional needs and conditions. These assessments
of natural, cultural, and recreational resources provide information
that enables local officials and public and private landowners to
make better decisions.
Conservation Workshops and Consultations
RTCA provides training, advice, and information on river and trail
conservation techniques. We can put you in touch with professionals
and citizen groups that specialize in recreation, trail design,
landowner liability, public involvement, and the economic benefits
Requirements for Assistance
Information and advice on many conservation and recreation topics are
available from any National Park Service office. However, a group seeking
longer-term assistance must formally apply for it. The program receives
far more requests each year than can be accommodated. Successful applicants
generally meet several criteria:
An Involved Public
Conservation projects are more likely to succeed if they have broad
public support. The RTCA program requires meaningful public participation
in both planning and implementation of selected projects because
full public involvement builds popular support.
Cost-Sharing and Cooperation
Public agencies and private groups sponsoring a project must help
fund it, with either cash or in-kind services. Usually, the larger
the project, the smaller the Park Service share. At the beginning
of each project, participants formally agree to cooperate as active
Successful applications have specific, tangible, attainable goals.
We work with communities to help them develop citizen groups and
take actions that will achieve specific goals, such as building
a trail, protecting a tract of fragile riverside land, or launching
an annual river clean-up and festival.
Proposed projects should protect or enhance important community
resources (such as rivers, trails, and landscapes) that will help
to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.