Frequently Asked Questions

We welcome your interest in learning about our program anytime throughout the year. Don't see your question below? Feel free to contact us at any time for further information.

Project Partner FAQs

Q. What is the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program?
Q. How can the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program help my project?

Q. Who can partner with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program?
Q. What are the skills and specialties of Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program staff?
Q. What is a facilitator and why is one crucial to a project's success?
Q. How can I tell if the National Park Service could help my local group with a conservation or recreation project?
Q. How do I apply for assistance?
Q. Does the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program give financial grants?
Q. Do National Park Service staff decide which rivers, trails, or other special places should be conserved or have improved recreation opportunities?
Q. Will the National Park Service own or manage the land?
Q. Why does the National Park Service encourage local groups to add as many partners as possible for each project?
Q. How does the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program work with national parks?
Q. What work is the National Park Service doing near me?


Project Partner FAQs

Q. What is the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA)?

A. The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program extends and expands the benefits of the National Park Service throughout the nation to connect all Americans to their parks, trails, rivers, and other special places. Our staff helps community groups, National Parks, nonprofits, state and local governments, tribes plan parks and trails, conserve and improve access to rivers and natural areas, and create recreation opportunities through locally led partnerships.


We provide a National Park Service employee to help
organize, strategize, build public participation, and help implement a conservation and/or recreation project that is important to your community. We do this by listening to your project needs, helping you identify the next steps to make your project successful, and target financial resources to make your project a reality.

The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program measures its success by its ability to achieve on-the-ground results. Each year, we help local partners conserve more than 1,000 miles of river corridor, develop nearly 1,800 miles of trail, and protect more than 50,000 acres of park land, wildlife habitat, and open space.

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Q. How can the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program help my project?

A. Each effort is organized differently based on individual community project needs. The following lists some of the ways that the National Park Service can help:
  • Recruit a strong local group of project leaders
  • Define your project’s vision and goals
  • Identify and analyze issues and opportunities
  • Engage partners and stakeholders
  • Define partner roles and responsibilities
  • Inventory and map community resources
  • Build consensus and set priorities and achievable goals
  • Identify funding sources
  • Develop a sustainable organization
  • Design community outreach and participation strategies
  • Plan (trails, parks, open spaces, river access points, etc.)
  • Record progress and celebrate successes

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Q. Who can partner with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program?

A. Project partners may be nonprofit organizations, community groups, tribes or tribal governments, and local, state, or federal government agencies.

National Parks and other Federal agencies may apply in partnership with other local organizations. For example, in the case of a community that wants to construct a trail to its neighboring national park, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program can facilitate the initial community-park dialogue, help the two parties create a consensus vision, guide the planning process, help identify funding sources for the trail, and provide recommendations for trail design and management. By working with parks, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program helps connect communities to the national parks in their backyards.

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Q. What are the skills and specialties provided by the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program?

A. As diverse professionals, our National Park Service staff has background in outdoor recreation planning, community planning, landscape architecture, trail planning and construction, natural resource management, environmental engineering, and more. An active communication network among our staff around the country helps share the best known skills and knowledge available for each project. All have the following core skills:
  • Partnership development
  • Public outreach
  • Meeting process facilitation
  • Organizational development
  • Capacity building

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Q. What is a facilitator and why is one crucial to a project's success?

A. A facilitator helps groups with diverse interests reach evolve a plan of action. Since most projects involve numerous landowners and interest groups, they tend to be complex and need a good facilitator, especially as a project is just getting started.


National Park Service staff is trained in facilitation and other techniques. As "outsiders," we are uniquely poised to assume the role of neutral facilitators, to ensure that as many people from different parts of the community as possible are involved in contributing to a plan of action.

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Q. How can I tell if the National Park Service could help my local group with a conservation and outdoor recreation project?

A. Please contact us, we are always available by telephone, mail, or e-mail to discuss your project ideas and challenges to determine if there might be a good match between your group's needs and our ability to help. Inquiries must be received no later than July 15. We welcome your interest in learning about our program anytime throughout the year.

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Q. How do I apply for assistance?

A. Check out our application page for guidelines and to download an application. Project applications are due annually on August 1. Prospective applicants should contact their local office by July 15 to start the dialogue about a potential project application.

As part of your application, we will ask for letters of support from key stakeholders. These could include other project partners, local businesses, government organizations, or nearby national parks, and should identify the type of commitment, cooperation, and cost-sharing that each partner will offer the project.

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Q. Does the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program give financial grants?

A. No, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program does not award monetary grants or loans. Instead, one of our staff with extensive experience in community-based outdoor recreation and conservation will work with you and your partners to get your project on the ground. If funding is necessary to achieve project goals, we can often assist partners in identifying and securing sources of financial assistance.

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Q. Do National Park Service staff decide what rivers, trails, or special places should be conserved or have improved recreation opportunities?

A. No. Local groups select the trails, rivers, and other places where they want to improve conservation or outdoor recreation opportunities. These local groups then invite National Park Service staff to join them to work on their projects. You lead your projects, and we provide guidance along the way.

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Q. Will the National Park Service own or manage the land?

A. No. The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program does not own or manage any of the resources it helps local groups protect; that is the job of the local organization. Our staff can help your organization develop management goals and find partners and funding sources for management activities.

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Q. Why does the National Park Service encourage local groups to add as many partners as possible for each project?

A. We define partnerships as any group of individuals, communities, parks, governments, or organizations that collaborate and work together toward a common goal. Generally, the more partners involved in a project, the more perspectives, ideas, interests, and resources available for a successful final result. In addition to local partners, National Park Service staff can help your group link to our national partners for additional support.

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Q. What work is the National Park Service doing near me?

A. National Park Service staff work in communities across the country. Learn more about current projects the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program is supporting by clicking on your state on the map.

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