I-Jobs-Iowa’s Infrastructure Investment Initiative

Recreational Trails

Iowa DOT

House File 822 appropriated $3.5 million for acquiring, constructing and improving recreational trails within the state. Trails monies may also be used for purposes of building equestrian or snowmobile trails that run parallel to a recreational trail.

Of the amount appropriated, $750,000 was allocated for the Principal Riverwalk in Des Moines and $500,000 for the trail system and bridge in the Pinicon Ridge Park in Linn County. The trail system will connect Pinicon Ridge Park and Central City, and the bridge will connect the picnic and campground sides of the park. That leaves $2.25 million for other trails projects.

State Recreational Trails program

The State Recreational Trails program is funded through the Recreational Trails Fund, Iowa Code section 465B.  The program provides funds to establish recreational trails in Iowa for the use, enjoyment and participation of the public.  Although the program is administered by the Iowa DOT, the Iowa Transportation Commission is responsible for all funding commitments and shall determine the projects to be funded. The Commission may approve, modify or deny an application for funding under this program. The Commission may also fund all or part of a project, and may make funding conditional upon adherence to a time schedule or fulfillment of an agreement.

A state or local governmental agency, municipal corporation, county or nonprofit organization is eligible to apply for and receive funds from the recreational trails program.

The recreational trails program is restricted to the acquisition, construction or improvement of trails open for public use or trails which will be dedicated to public use upon completion.

Program requirements

A proposed recreational trails project shall meet all of the following requirements:

  1. The project must be part of a local, area-wide, regional or statewide plan.
  2. The trail route shall be designed to allow enjoyment of scenic views or points of historical interest and to maximize safety. The route may use existing roads, streets or parkways, if the normal flow of motor vehicle traffic will not be hindered, abandoned railroad corridors, utility corridors, or new right-of-way as necessary.
  3. The project shall include a contribution of at least 25 percent matching funds. Notwithstanding, at the discretion of the department, funds may be granted up to a maximum of 80 percent.
Matching funds shall be from sources other than the recreational trails program. Matching funds shall not include other grants from state agencies or the provision of in-kind services. The value of donated land may be an eligible matching contribution if the land is donated after the commission’s funding commitment, and its value is based on a real estate appraisal acceptable to the department. The appraisal is subject to review and approval by the department after a funding commitment has been made.

Eligible costs

  • Land acquisition costs including, but not limited to, appraisal costs, negotiation costs and the required cultural resources survey pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 263B are eligible project costs. Land may be acquired by lease, easement or fee simple. Except for primary road projects, the performance of land negotiation and acquisition activities shall not be the responsibility of the department although the department may provide advisory services.
  • Trail surfacing, resurfacing, rehabilitation, modernization, upgrading and reconstruction, including pavement repairs and overlays and shoulder widening and stabilization; or initial trail construction including grading, drainage, paving and erosion control.
  • Bridge and culvert repair, modernization, replacement or initial construction.
  • Roadway intersection and interchange improvements, including warranted traffic signalization that is an integral part of the project.
  • Construction or improvement of rest areas, information centers, waysides, permanent interpretive displays, lighting and rest rooms, including the costs of utility connections that are an integral part of the project.
  • Design engineering and construction inspection costs directly associated with the project.
  • Storm drainage and storm sewer costs to the extent needed for draining the trail.
  • Utility relocation costs necessary for trail construction or improvement if the utility is not located on public right of way.
  • Trail signs, fencing, landscaping, parking areas, and walkways.


An application for funding is available on the Office of Systems Planning’s Web site.
The application deadline for this program July 1.

Project selection

The Iowa DOT shall evaluate each complete application primarily on the basis of whether the predicted use of the trail justifies the construction and maintenance costs including, but not limited to, the following criteria:

  • Need, in terms of the population to be served and existing trails in the area (25 points).
  • Compatibility with local, area-wide, regional or statewide plans (15 points).
  • Benefits of multiple uses and recreational opportunities (20 points).
  • Quality of the site (25 points).
  • Economic benefits to the local area (10 points).
  • Special facilities for the disabled (5 points).
Completed applications shall be reviewed by a committee composed of one representative from each of these departments: Natural Resources, Economic Development, Cultural Affairs, and Transportation. The committee shall recommend applications to the Iowa DOT by ranking them in order of funding priority. The Iowa DOT shall prepare a list of applications and funding recommendations, and present it to the Iowa Transportation Commission for final approval and funding.

For further information about this program contact:
Office of Systems Planning
Iowa Department of Transportation
800 Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50010
ATTN:  Craig Markley