Seven ideas for funding non-motorized trails

By Scott Post, PE

Whenever I meet with a new non-motorized trails group or client, one of the first questions I am asked is, “Where can we get grants to pay for our trail?” If your group or community is planning a non-motorized trail, check out my seven favorite trail funding sources:

  1. Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund (For example, Cannon trail)
    Grants a maximum of $300,000 per project. Applications are due April 1 each year.
  2. MDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) (For example, Fred Meijer CIS Trail between Ionia and Owosso)
    Emphasizes regional trail connectivity.
  3. MDOT’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program (For example, Blue Star Trail)
    Can be used if your community is in a non-attainment zone for air quality. Trails can be constructed to provide access for alternative modes of transportation.
  4. Recreation or trails millages (For example, Spring Lake Township)
    Many communities have successfully passed trail millages to use for the development and maintenance of trail projects.
  5. Benefactors and Foundations (For example, Greenville Trail)
    Often local corporations in your community may see this as an opportunity to give back.
  6. Fund Drives (For examples, Big Rapids’ Access for All for the Riverwalk)
    Many local organizations will assist with fundraising for community projects that they support.
  7. MDOT’s Safe Routes to School program (For example, Allegan’s Monroe Street)
    Safe Routes to School funding will require a community non-motorized plan and the adoption of a Complete Streets ordinance.

Depending on your project, there are often creative ways to match funding sources with each other for a greater impact in funding your project! If you are wondering how to pay for your trail project, I would love to hear from you.

Scott Post is a board member at the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition. He has designed nearly 150 miles of non-motorized trails in Michigan.

Greenville’s Flat River Trail received significant grants from Fred Meijer (a hometown native) and MDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Fund (now called TAP).
Greenville’s Flat River Trail received significant grants from Fred Meijer (a hometown native) and MDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Fund (now called TAP).

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