WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) recently announced the recipients of its 2018 Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund grants, with an emphasis on strategic investments that support significant regional and community trail development goals.

The Doppelt Fund supports small, regional projects that are vital to trail systems but often fall through the cracks of traditional funding streams. RTC received nearly $5.5 million in application requests for the 2018 grant cycle, demonstrating the national reality of unmet trail funding needs.

“These projects are often smaller in scope and scale, making them hard to finance within traditional funding streams. This grant program provides important resources communities need — in some cases, raising awareness of a project within the community, and in others, maintaining trails or providing the match funding necessary to acquire a corridor and build the trail,” said Eli Griffen, RTC's manager of trail development resources and the manager of the Doppelt Fund grant program.

Dallas County Conservation Board was one of the local recipients. The board received $15,000 for the acquisition of six parcels of land required to extend the iconic High Trestle Trail to the Raccoon River Valley Trail north of Des Moines.

“We are honored to be selected as one of the 10 recipients in the nation to be awarded the 2018 Rails to Trails Conservancy's Doppelt Fund Grant. This $15,000 grant will help us continue to move forward with our Raccoon River Valley Trail to High Trestle Trail Connector project,” said Mike Wallace, Dallas County Conservation Board Director.

The nine-mile project, Wallace said, will connect two of the premier trail systems in the state. The grant will allow the board to purchase some of the last parcels needed for the connector project.

To date, over 55 percent of the estimated project costs of $5 million have been raised. The Dallas County Conservation Board is currently in the process of constructing the first 1.56 miles of the trail this summer. This Phase I construction will start in Perry at 18th Street and go east to 130th Street.

Additional construction phases will happen as additional funds are received. If you would like to contribute towards this project, go to www.letsconnectdallascounty.com or contact the Dallas County Conservation Board at 515-465-3577.

The 2018 Doppelt Fund grantees mark the largest pool of RTC-funded projects to date, with more than $140,000 invested in 10 projects nationwide. The fund was bolstered by an additional $40,000 legacy gift from North Carolina Rail-Trails, Inc. and a $20,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

“The projects that we were able to fund this year are incredible,” said Jeff Doppelt, a philanthropist from Great Neck, New York. “Through a relatively small investment, we're able to complete and connect iconic trails and improve the trail user experience. Hundreds of these types of projects exist all over the country; it's important that people begin to understand that the need far outweighs the funding available. These projects are essential to building and maintaining the trails that so many of us love and that communities rely upon for recreation, transportation and economic vitality.”

Established in 2015, the Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund is a way to move forward critical projects that enhance health and transportation connectivity in their regions.