Though there’s been a surging demand for trails and greenways in the past few years, obtaining an environmental grant to develop them can be somewhat challenging. There are numerous federal grants and programs, many reserved for local and state government, nonprofits and communities. While privately funded grants are more rare, they do exist.
Below is a quick list of several grants available for the creation and/or preservation of trails and greenways across the United States. Much needed greenway funding isn’t always easy to obtain, but we hope this will make your search a little easier.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Trail Grants
Since 2008, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy* has provided over $2.6 million in funding to 350+ organizations to make strategic investments in building and improving multi-use trails. Grant amounts range between $5,000 and $25,000. The grant application period runs on an annual cycle, applications accepted in July and awards announced in the fall.
*Note: In addition to its grant program, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has put together an incredibly valuable page with Federal Funding Programs & Resources. Get details on programs and funding sources here.
Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants
The U.S. Department of Transportation launched the BUILD grant program in 2009, and as of 2020, has provided over $9 billion in funding to over 678 projects across the United States. To be eligible, applicants must be state or local governments looking to build projects that have a significant impact on the community. The projects must be at least $1 million in rural areas and $5 million in metropolitan areas.
Federal Recreational Trails Program Grants
The Recreational Trails Program remains one of the most notable givers in trail maintenance and development in the United States. Its funds are pulled from the Transportation Alternatives funding pool. These grants can be put towards the repair and management of existing trails as well as the development of new ones, in addition to projects that meet other criteria. Private organizations are eligible if they meet the state’s individual criteria.
PeopleForBikes Community Grants
Funding is reserved for non-profit organizations that focus on bicycling, active transportation and community development, as well as local, state and government agencies. Grants are only for specific projects or programs and not for general operational costs.
The Conservation Alliance Grants
From 1989 to 2020, the Conservation Alliance has given over $25 million in grants to protect and preserve wild areas across North America, both for their habitat and for recreational purposes. These grants are for registered 501(c)(3) organizations that meet their criteria. While these funds are often for protecting land, they have been utilized for providing pedestrian access to wild lands, which includes trail development.
American Hiking Society's National Trails Fund
The National Trails Fund is reserved for organizations in the Hiking Alliance that are also 501(c)(3) certified nonprofits. Members that lack that accreditation do have the opportunity to use a fiscal agent. Through this fund, the American Hiking Society has given over $560,000 to 182 trail projects. It is the only privately funded national grants program that gives solely to the building and protecting of hiking trails.
Local Businesses and Organizations
Many businesses and non-profit organizations offer grants and partnerships through corporate/community foundations, collaborators, and other programs. Local governments can also be a great resource for funding via ballot initiatives, grants, and tax districts. Be sure to research these sources available in your city, county and state.
Bottom line: there are environmental grants out there for your trail and greenway projects!