When you think of the National Park Service, you probably think of the vast wilderness of Yellowstone National Park or the ecological significance of the Everglades.  But you may not realize that the NPS also helps to fund smaller conservation and outdoor recreation projects as well.  The National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program recently launched 250 new projects that will help improve the access of local community's around the country to nature.  

The RTCA is the community assistance arm of the National Park Service tasked with the goal of providing technical assistance for community-led natural resource projects throughout the U.S.  Every year, RTCA partnerships develop or conserve about 2,000 miles of trails, 1,000 miles of river, and 70,000 acres of open space and parks.

Isabel Babiak, a 13-year old from rural Naknek, Alaska sought RTCA help on establishing a trail to her school. RTCA worked with her to plan a route, gather support, identify partners, develop interagency relationships, seek funding, and find volunteers. In a ceremony last September, Isabel had the honor of cutting the ribbon for the new 2.3-mile Naknek Sockeye Run Fitness Trail & Bike Path. The trail, which connects the school to the town’s clinic, pool, senior center, community center, and athletic fields, also includes scenic viewpoints, a playground, and exercise equipment.

 “RTCA, the entire community, and a long list of partners, really rallied around Isabel and helped make her vision a reality,” said Jack Walsh, the superintendent of schools in Bristol Bay Borough. “This off road trail has made a big difference in our community and reminds us of the constant need to think about public recreation and physical activity levels, especially when it comes to young people.”

Want to know what the RTCA is working on in your state?  You can see a complete list of projects by state at the RTCA site.  And if you have a project you think could use RTCA help, check out their application page.  Applications for next year's projects are due by August 1, 2013. 

NPS launches 250 community assistance projects
The NPS' Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program aims to preserve nature and outdoor recreation in local communities around the country.