Trail Implementation Toolkit

MAPC has developed a Trail Implementation Toolkit with the goal of empowering local planners and trail advocates to help grow the network of biking and walking trails in Massachusetts.

Building a trail with state or federal transportation funding is the preferred option for many cities and towns, and Reno DeLuzio of Milford has created an excellent step-by-step primer on how to build a trail with funding from any of the MassDOT-administered programs, such as CMAQ and Transportation Enhancements. This primer is a great place for anyone to start.

View or download Milford’s trail development primer.

However, building a trail with MassDOT funding may be a very long and costly process. The Toolkit below outlines strategies to help move the process along — or to help communities determine a different way to move forward altogether — by highlighting some of the more creative strategies that municipalities in the MAPC region have used for development, construction and maintenance of walking and bicycling trails.

View the entire toolkit here or click on individual sections below:

I. What You Can Do Without Funding

1. Trade the rails for a trail

Iron Horse Preservation Society is a nonprofit organization that converts abandoned railroad corridors into recreational trails at little to no cost to the communities with which they work.Find out more about how to partner with Iron Horse.

2. Volunteers

Volunteers are a crucial part of any successful trail project. From trail cleanup, to website design, to serving on the Trail Committee itself, there are many different jobs for volunteers to do.See tips for recruiting groups of volunteers, and making volunteer days a success.

iI. Hitch a Ride on a Funded Project

1. Road and public works projects 

A number of communities have had parts of a trail successfully funded, designed, or built by piggybacking on other road or public works projects. Make sure your trail is in the right place at the right time.

2. Development projects and mitigation fees

Several trails in the region have moved forward as part of development project, either built by the developer or funded by mitigation fees. Learn how to take advantage of development projects. 

iii. Strategies for Private Fundraising

1. Grants

Many trails are developed with grants from federal or state agencies, nonprofits or foundations, or local civic organizations. Even for MassDOT-funded trails, grants are often crucial for funding feasibility studies and design. Get ideas on where to look for grants, and how to make your application stand out.

2. Grassroots fundraising/sponsorship

Fundraising is often a crucial part of making trail plans into reality. Some trails are built completely without taxpayer dollars, but even trails funded by MassDOT often require the design and a percentage of the construction costs be funded locally. Learn from successful fundraising campaigns in the region.

iV. Lesser-known Sources of Public Funding

1. Community Preservation Act

The Community Preservation Act is a Massachusetts law that enables cities and towns to raise special funds in order to preserve open space, develop outdoor recreational facilities, and build affordable housing. Find out how the CPA works and if your community has opted in.

2. State grant programs

There are many well-known federal and state grant programs that are administered through MassDOT. Several other state agencies also have grant programs that have helped build trails.Get details on a few of the state grant programs that have helped build trails.

Don’t Forget to Spread the Word!

No matter what stage the project is in, it is absolutely essential to publicize your project. Positive press will raise awareness and build community support for the project, and you may be surprised by how many donors and volunteers approach you, rather than the other way around.

The Danvers Rail Trail is one example of publicity paying off. Early in the development of the trail, a local programmer approached the Trail Committee and volunteered to build a website, which has been crucial for fundraising and recruiting volunteers. More recently, a persistent drainage issue on the trail was fixed by resident near the trail who approached the town to offer his landscaping company’s time, equipment and materials to fix the problem.


Funding and advocacy resources:

Local trail groups: