The University of New Orleans Transportation Institute has created a statewide plan to guide the Louisiana Recreational Trail Program (LRTP) on ways to encourage trail use while supporting the care of wildlife, habitats and other natural resources.
The trails program is a national initiative that help states provide and maintain recreational trails and trails-related facilities. Louisiana has received $1.5 million from the federal government annually since 2009 to support its recreational trails program.
The plan provides a variety of goals intended to guide the actions of the LRTP, its advisory committee and all agencies and organizations involved in the planning, development, construction, operation, maintenance and programming of current and future Louisiana trails, said UNO Transportation Institute researcher Tara Tolford.
The goals relate to funding, environmental stewardship, operations, trail network development and other areas, she said.
The plan also encourages the linking of trails throughout the state with the aim of creating large networks of recreation and transportation facilities, Tolford said.
“The heightened use of our local trails facilities really highlights that now is the time,” Tolford said. “Trails are ideal for these perpetually-COVID times.”
The LRTP has helped build trail projects in every parish and hundreds of municipalities, communities and neighborhoods throughout Louisiana.
The plan notes that 74% of all Louisiana residents live within five miles of one or more LRTP projects.
In formulating the plan, researchers utilized data collected through two statewide surveys given to trail users as well as agency and organization stakeholders.
The surveys were conducted in the summer of 2018 and garnered nearly 1,000 responses from birdwatchers, ATV riders, mountain bikers, paddlers and other trail users, as well as stakeholders directly responsible for trails-planning, Tolford said.
The trail plan was created in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, and the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.