Ohio is home to an abundance of natural resources and thousands of miles of trails that connect residents and visitors to the state’s diverse beauty. Ohio’s trail systems bring people together, provide alternative transportation routes, promote healthy living, attract new residents, and have positive impacts on local economies. As remote workforce options become more prevalent among employers, employees are looking to communities where the live – work – play mantra truly exists. Ohio communities should be undertaking efforts to create a sense of place where local assets, such as natural resources, are highlighted and complement a workforce that is seeking vibrant, connected communities.

With thousands of miles of trails throughout Ohio, many parts of the state remain unserved or underserved by trail systems. The Clean Ohio Trail Fund (COTF) provides funding for trails in communities that seek to improve outdoor recreational opportunities that serve residents and visitors looking for outdoor pursuits. COTF typically funds projects that involve longer trails and building linkages between long distance trails. Eligible activities include:

  • New recreational trail construction with an emphasis is on linear trails.
  • Connector – trail development.
  • Acquisition of property and easements for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors.
  • Trailhead facilities may be considered if a small component of a trail construction project.
  • Planning, appraisals, title work, surveys, engineering design costs, environmental research, and archaeological surveys associated with a specific recreational trail project may be eligible. These costs are not eligible as a standalone project.

The COTF program can fund up to 75 % of eligible project costs, with a maximum award of $500,000. A 25% match is required and all COTF awards are made on a reimbursable basis. All projects must be completed within 15 months from the date they are signed into contract. The COTF program is available to local governments (i.e., cities, villages, counties, townships), special districts (i.e., park districts, soil and water conservation districts, joint recreation boards), and non-profit organizations. Additionally, conservancy districts are eligible if they have jointly sponsored projects between political subdivisions.  Applications are due to ODNR by April 15, 2022.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federally funded grant program and is administered by ODNR in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). RTP funding focuses on projects that build linkages between trail systems and loop trails within parks, whereas the COTF program does not fund loop trail projects. Eligible activities include:

  • Development of urban trail linkages, trail head and trailside facilities.
  • Maintenance of existing trails.
  • Restoration of trail areas damaged by use.
  • Improving access for people with disabilities.
  • Acquisition of easements and property.
  • Development and construction of new trails.
  • Purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment.
  • Environment and safety education programs related to trails.

The COTF program can fund up to 80% of eligible project costs, with a maximum award of $150,000. A 20% match is required and all RTP awards are made on a reimbursable basis. All projects must be completed within 15 months from the date they are signed into contract. The RTP program is available to local governments (i.e., cities, villages, counties, townships), state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.  Applications are due to ODNR by April 15, 2022.

The NatureWorks program is a grant program funded through the Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Bond Issue, which was approved by Ohio voters in 1993 and has funded over 2300 public park projects in all 88 Ohio counties. NatureWorks is available for the acquisition, development, or rehabilitation of public outdoor recreation areas. Capital improvements for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, expansion, improvement, planning, and equipping of capital projects that enhance the use and enjoyment of natural resources by individuals.  Eligible activities include:

  • Acquisition of lands, facilities, and waters for public recreation.
  • Preservation of wetlands or unique habitats
  • Development, construction, reconstruction, expansion, or rehabilitation of recreation areas and facilities.
  • Projects to provide public park and recreation opportunities by improving public access or safety.
  • NatureWorks shall not be awarded for administrative, operating, or maintenance costs; or for areas, facilities, or structures for athletics, arts, historic sites, or other purposes, which are not used primarily for public recreation.

The NatureWorks program can fund up to 75 % of eligible project costs up to $150,000. Each funding round, ODNR’s NatureWorks program allocates maximum funding amounts by county up to the maximum of $150,000 for which each county can apply under the NatureWorks program. A 25% match is required, and all local match dollars must come from nonstate, nonfederal sources. NatureWorks awards are made on a reimbursable basis.  The NatureWorks program is available to local government subdivisions, including townships, villages, cities, counties, park districts, joint recreation districts and conservancy districts. Applications are due to ODNR by June 1, 2022.

For more information on ODNR’s new round of funding programs for trail systems and assistance Montrose Group can provide your community, contact Dave Robinson at drobinson@montrosegroupllc.com.