Morris County Starts Sixth Year of Recreational Trail Construction Grants Program


Nearly $1.6 million in grants for recreational trails will be available to Morris County’s 39 municipalities through the 2021 Morris County Trail Construction Grant Program, which opened its sixth annual application process earlier this month.

Morris County has issued more than $3.3 million to build and enhance a growing network of local trails since 2016, after voters overwhelming approved dedicating a portion of the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund annually toward recreational trail development.

“The value of this program certainly proved itself when the pandemic hit us last year. Trail use across the nation increased by 200 percent and, here in Morris County, it has been four-fold. People saw the trail system as a refuge to get out with their family, to get fresh air and exercise, and to get their minds off the pandemic.  The trails are part of the wonderful quality of life we enjoy in Morris County, and we are pleased to open the grant application process this year to expand that network,” said Director Commissioner Stephen H. Shaw of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners.

(Check out the Director’s visit to Liffy Island & James Leach Boardwalk Trail in Jefferson Township.)

Exciting changes have taken place for the 2021 Trail Grant funding cycle, including:

  • Funding Available for Design & Permitting Phase
  • Funding Available for two Construction Categories – 1) Minor & 2) Major
  • Pre-Application Meetings Required for ALL Submissions
  • Grantees have 2-Years to complete projects

Find applications and learn more on the trail program website

“We are excited about this year’s changes to the Trail Grant Program.  Funding design and permitting phase will open up the program to municipalities that might have been hesitant about funding that aspect for themselves, and adding a minor construction category can streamline very simple trail projects to get in the ground more quickly,’’ said Betty Cass-Schmidt, Chairwoman of the Trail Construction Grant Advisory Committee.

A Virtual Workshop will be held on Thursday, May 6, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to review the overall program and application process.  A recording of the workshop will be posted on the program website for those who cannot attend.

The program rules, procedures and applications have been revised to accommodate the changes.  Separate applications are required for each funding category.

The two-step submission process remains the same:

Step 1, Letters of Intent are due on Wednesday June 30, 2021.

Step 2, Full Applications are due by Friday July 30, 2021.

Permissible Uses and Projects include:

  • Construction of new trails of various types (motorized and non-motorized)
  • Enhancement of existing trails (improvements to design and/or surface type to accommodate increased use or to make the trail ADA compliant)

Funding only will be considered if the land on which a trail project is to be constructed is:

  • Located in Morris County
  • Owned by the municipality
  • Permanent preserved public parkland or private land with dedicated easements for public recreation use
  • On land with a permanent easement for public trail/recreational provided to the municipality
  • In full municipal control of all land and/or easements on which trail(s) are to be funded

Various aspects of project development are not eligible for funding.

They include, but are not limited to the following: land condemnation, land acquisition, sidewalks, improvements or construction to roads, lighting, running tracks (tracks used for races involving athletes at track meets), law enforcement personnel and activities, promotional materials (shirts, caps, pins, etc.)

The minimum grant amount is $5,000 for all funding categories.  The maximum grant award varies based on the category limit is defined as “no one award shall receive more than 60 percent of the funds available during each year’s funding cycle.” However, this exception can be waived if a project is deemed a regionally significant project.

The Trail Grant program operates on a reimbursement basis. Municipal applicants are limited to one application request per funding cycle. The program requires municipalities to contribute a 20 percent match toward the costs of their trail projects.

Grant awards are expected to be announced before the end of the year.

Application materials and other resources are available on the program website, including a program Fact Sheet, which provides a brief summary.

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