Not to drone on and on about the NPS paved trails study, but one interesting factoid in it is the claim that the National Capital Region (NCR) "is allocated a significantly lower amount of funding for trail-related cyclic maintenance and repair/rehabilitation than other NPS regions." When looking at almost every federal funding source (in bold) that other National Park regions rely on, NCR parks get less money for trails.
Other NPS park regions allocate funds from park fee revenues and concessions fees for trail projects at levels far higher than the NCR. For example, the Recreation Fee fund is formed from a portion (20%) of the recreation fees collected by all NPS park units and then is distributed to NPS regions; this source accounted for 33.5% of funding for trail projects between 2000 and 2015 nationally but only 3.28% of funding for trail projects in the NCR for the same time period.
The NCR averages just under $200,000 in recreation fee-based funding for trails per year, but in the last three funding years (2013-2015) the NCR has received less than half the average each year. An important note for the Recreation Fee funding source is that the NPS park units included in this study do not collect entrance fees.
The Cyclic Maintenance program is designed to complete regular, scheduled maintenance of assets. Cyclical maintenance is typically not sufficient in and of itself to complete all maintenance needed for all assets. Nationally, NPS funding for trail related cyclic maintenance accounted for approximately 20.7% of total funding between 2000 and 2015. Cyclic maintenance only accounted for 1.5% of total funding for the NCR during the same period.
In the last five years, the NCR has received less than $10,000 in trail repair / rehabilitation funding across all park units. Other individually significant park units such as Acadia National Park (ACAD) have received over $586,000, while Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRMP) in the Southeast Region has received more than $3.1 million in trail repair/rehabilitation funding in the last five years
So, trails within the NCR don't get a lot of support from NPS funding sources, not when compared to other parks. But it makes up for it with non-NPS funding.
On a national level, NPS has received approximately 5.3% of funding for trail projects from Non-NPS sources. The NCR is a leader in obtaining funding under this category. Approximately 40% of the NCR funding for trails came from Non-NPS sources between 2000 and 2015. This equates to about 45% of the total amount of Non-NPS funding Service-wide.
Which seems good, except that the reason NPS has done so well comparably was because of the $10 million TIGER grant that DDOT secured for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. It "accounted for most of this funding."
Another funding source available for NPS trails is the Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) – Category III – Alternative Transportation Program.
The NCR receives a $1.2 million allocation for Category III projects each year. Prior to 2011, these funds were utilized on non-trail related projects. However, since then over $1.9 million has been provided for trail capital projects, including funding for this study.
So part of the reason why local NPS trails have so many needs is that not only is NPS insufficiently funded to provide the needed maintenance of its infrastructure, but even within NPS, the NCR trails seem to get considerably less federal funding than other parks and regions do.