Part 2 in a series
With our community having a comprehensive trails and pathways plan on paper, one of the biggest challenges is finding money to take it from paper to dirt. With money tight everywhere at the state level, county level, and local level, money for trails — and everything else — is even more difficult to find than it used to be, but it can and does happen. There are many ways to fund trails and pathways in our community from state to local opportunities.
The State of California has a program that provides education and funding related to trails. The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) includes all trails — non-motorized and motorized — and certain funding is only available to one or the other, rarely both, which further limits availability of state monies.
The funding opportunities are competitive. Simply stated, agencies must fill out lengthy application requests with a ton of information and it takes a lot of time. Then there’s the reporting back once funds are granted and the matching funds typically required — most organizations are unable to ever consider making such a request — so governmental agencies compete for those dollars.
Even if it’s a 20 percent “matching funds required,” most trails organizations and groups are small and have too limited funds to meet the requirements. I went to the RTP Funding and Planning Session a couple of years ago and found out firsthand that I needed to look elsewhere for trail funding for Ramona, but at least it’s out there.
The next and probably the biggest contributor to trail funding in Ramona is the County of San Diego. Typically the Department of Parks and Recreation has much to do with identifying trails and pathway locations and finding funding sources. In addition, the Department of Public Works (DPW), also a county agency, is more and more involved with pathway alignment and construction as it is in charge of roadways, and pathways are along roadways. Kind of makes sense to me to have parks department working on trails and roads department working on pathways, but I do have to say that I’m a little concerned there may be some disconnect at that level and our trails and pathway alignments may be off. We’ll have to keep a careful eye on that.
Anyway, in some instances funding comes directly from the county agencies to spend in Ramona on trails and pathways. Grants, discretionary funds, and other avenues can be appropriated by county supervisors and by the agencies to spend in unincorporated communities.
One instance: along a local street the county appropriated $26,000 some 10 years ago to create a pathway. Volunteers did most of the work, but the money came from the county. The volunteers trimmed trees, mowed weeds, laid the DG (decomposed granite), and dug postholes for some fencing. This ¾-mile unpaved pathway creates a safe place to walk your dog, ride your horse, and kids to ride their bikes.
The county also purchases land or easements, which we will talk about next time, for trails and pathways to connect according to the Trails and Pathways Plan. They also purchase land, then open it for use by the public such as Barnett Ranch, Mt. Gower, and the Ramona Grasslands, all of which are part of the Ramona Trails and Pathways Master Plan. Large land tracts such as these (and others) are way too expensive for local nonprofits to purchase and manage, but the county has made them available to all of us.
Developers are also (usually) required to include trails and pathways in their plans, as they are also able to purchase large land tracts and many are included on the Trails and Pathways Plan. If they do not follow through or the ball gets dropped somehow, that is another way that the “trail to nowhere” can become a long-lived frustration. That’s a whole ‘nother page, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.
Communities provide funding through grants, individual donations, and corporate giving. Smaller local grants may be obtained by local nonprofit organizations, which can then use the funding for trails and pathways. Donations are often tax deductible if given to a nonprofit and I know Ramona businesses and individuals are very supportive of our local nonprofits.
Smaller grants are easier to apply for and manage, with less red tape and reporting procedures — typically around $5000 — and can really help get a trail or pathway started and sometimes finished when combined with donations.
When I was part of Ramona Trails Association, I was able to obtain a grant through the Trails and Greenways Foundation for Ramona and, in combination with the donations received and a lot of helping hands, a trail was built and will continue into the future.
While it seemed at the time like a “trail to nowhere,” and still does in a way, I know what the future holds for this little 1/3-mile section, and it’s amazing and exciting. A little hint: Santa Maria Creek Greenway — I promise to tell you about it.
There are so many more funding opportunities out there and I could go on and on, but you get the gist.
Trails and pathways require funding, and there are many avenues for that funding to find Ramona. We just have to keep trying to find it. Citizen diligence and persistence is key — that’s you and me.
The next big challenge for any trails plan to discuss will be easements — a very touchy subject for many. Stay tuned!