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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 view—these special places help to give your community its personality and character.

Phil Schermeister

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, and tourism.

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.

Working Together

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.
Phil Schermeister

 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

Maria Stenzel

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.

Regional Assessments

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 of conservation.

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 partners.

Results Orientation

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.

Significant Resources

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.


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Last Updated: March 14, 2001