Arkansas Tech Receives Funding for Trail Management Institute

Arkansas Tech Receives Funding for Trail Management Institute

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Arkansas Tech University has earned a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation that will be directed to the establishment of the Arkansas Trail Management Institute.

Funding has been made available through the Transportation Alternatives Program and Recreational Trails Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. This grant program provides for an 80% federal share, with eligible sponsors required to provide a 20% match.

It is important to note that the funds received through this grant program are subject to the aforementioned federal share and matching requirements. As such, eligible sponsors must ensure adequate resources are available to meet the matching requirement.

By participating in this grant program, eligible sponsors have the opportunity to benefit from the federal funding available through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, which can be used to support various transportation and recreational projects.

The Arkansas Trail Management Institute has outlined several objectives, including providing training for trail management to promote workforce development. Additionally, they aim to enhance the safety of trail construction, maintenance, and usage, and encourage the practical and efficient use of natural resources. The Institute also aims to increase sustainability in the design, usage, and maintenance of trails, and continue Arkansas’s positive trajectory as a leader in trail offerings.

Cedar Falls, Petit Jean State Park.
Cedar Falls, Petit Jean State Park.

“We will offer online courses on trail management and in-person trail school and workshop events to help develop Arkansas’s trail workforce,” wrote Dr. Julie Furst-Bowe, ATU interim vice president for academic affairs, in a memorandum to the ATU Board of Trustees when the grant application was approved by the board in June 2023. “Courses will focus on the safe and sustainable management of trails and trail systems (new and old trails). These courses will be asynchronous, allowing flexibility to complete when and where someone has time. The hands-on trail schools and workshops will focus on the hard skills needed in the trade. The focus will be to give credentials such as, but not limited to, wilderness first aid, chainsaw safety, mini excavator safety, and Leave No Trace. With these curriculums and platforms established, this can provide consistent training for years to come with updates for the trends.”

Dr. Jay Post is an associate professor of recreation and park administration at ATU and is leading the project as the principal investigator. He will provide leadership for the Arkansas Trail Management Institute. Dr. Michael Bradley, who is the head of the ATU Department of Agriculture and Tourism and an associate professor of recreation and park administration, is the project’s secondary investigator.

Dr. Post said, “The curriculum will include parts of trail programs developed by the US Forest Service, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, American Trails, and others. It will also have major elements of sustainability and inclusion for managing trails. The main focus will be on management and less on building techniques. The target audience are those already working in land management, trail building, and volunteer groups that want to be more effective.” Dr. Post also said, “We also want to develop a Winter Trail School that will be all about hands-on skills like wilderness first aid, basic hand tools and maintenance, Sawyer 1 chainsaw certification, and an introduction to mini excavator.”

Arkansas Technical University (ATU) started offering its Bachelor’s degree program in Recreation and Park Administration back in 1965. The program received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation National Recreation and Park Association as well as the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation in 1997. Graduates of this program have had successful careers in various park systems such as Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and regional as well as local park systems.

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Currently, the ATU recreation and park administration program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions.

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Send an e-mail to AgricultureTourism@atu.edu for more information about the Arkansas Trail Management Institute.

Learn more about ATU’s recreation and park administration program at www.atu.edu/agri-tourism/programs_recpark.php.

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