Minnesota Recreational Trail Users Association

The Minnesota Recreational Trail Users Association (MRTUA), was formed by representatives of snowmobiler, hiker, 4-wheel drive enthusiast, horse enthusiast, cross-country skier, all-terrain vehicle rider, off-road motorcyclist and bicyclist user groups. MRTUA lists among its purposes the identification and assessment of needs of trail users and common grounds among the different groups using trails in Minnesota, to work toward common goals among the user groups and to increase awareness of the various recreational trail opportunities and needs in the State of Minnesota.

The MRTUA has its roots in a series of citizen meetings organized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in May and June of 1990. These meetings were to aid in development of trails policy within the department. Each group met with Minnesota DNR representatives and facilitators to derive the ideal future for the particular sport the group represented. Approximately 110 people met during those two months, dreaming up the best of all possible worlds for the future of their sport.

In September of 1990, three representatives from each of the groups involved in the previous meetings came together to see what kinds of ideas, facilities, resources, etc., the groups had in common. From this session would come the citizen input for the Minnesota DNR trails policy. The people who came together from the disparate sports mentioned above found that they had much more in common than they would have guessed. So much so, that they decided to form a coalition that would cross the lines between sports and seek out the commonalities they shared.

The MRTUA was officially formed on November 18, 1990. Since then officers have been elected, by-laws have been written and adopted, and presentation have been made to trail-user interest groups and conferences. Initial funding for the association came from donations and grants that were received from MnUSA, Polaris Industries, MN Horse Council, and ATVAM.

Since the inception of MRTUA, two more user groups have been added to the association: in-line skating and mountain bicycling. Bringing the number of user groups represented to 10 and the number or members on the board to 30. Each group of three board members is appointed to the MRTUA board by their respective user organization for a term that meets the user organizations desires.

The MRTUA board operates on a basis of consensus voting with each member association getting three votes, or one per board member. With consensus voting this makes sure that the MRTUA is not engaging in any activities that a member user group would have concern or issue with.

An important MRTUA function is to advise the DNR on the distribution of federal Recreational Trail Program (RTP) grant money. The Minnesota DNR has been designated by the Governor to oversee the distribution of RTP monies in Minnesota. The MRTUA is the initial and secondary evaluating body for RTP grant applications, and makes its recommendations to the DNR, which has the final responsibility for awarding grants. The MRTUA board looks at and adjusts the priorities for the grants before the next years grant cycle.

This program is unique in that, legislatively it is specified that the funds must be expended for projects that are strictly motorized as well as projects that are strictly non-motorized, while at the same time encouraging the development of projects that could provide for both. The law specifies that 30 percent of the funds must be used for motorized projects, 30 percent for non-motorized and 40 percent for diversified projects and, in Minnesota, we require that these diversified projects be utilized by both motorized and non-motorized trail users.

The MRTUA’s role in RTP grant process
  • The MRTUA meets to review the previous year’s grant priorities and applications, makes any adjustments to the priorities and applications that are deemed appropriate and that work within the guidelines of the RTP program.

  • Grant applications are due into the Minnesota DNR by the end of February, including applications for DNR projects. A small subgroup of the MRTUA board meets and reviews the grant applications to help the Minnesota DNR staff be sure the grant application is designated as a motorized, non-motorized or joint application. This takes place in the first couple of weeks of March. Any questions on the designation are researched by DNR and MRTUA board members.

  • The full MRTUA board meets in later March to review the grant applications, which are sent out to the board members prior to the meeting.

  • During this meeting the board is divided into two subgroups, one of motorized representatives and one of non-motorized representatives. The respective grant applications are reviewed by the appropriate subgroup with stack rankings and funding suggestions created.

  • The subgroups also review the joint projects and create a stack ranking of the applications. Once this is done the board meets in full and compares the joint applications stack rankings and comes to consensus on the projects to recommend to the Minnesota DNR for funding in a stack ranked format, along with alternates.

  • The selected projects are then further reviewed by the Minnesota DNR to approve the recommendations of the MRTUA board and make sure that each project will be able to meet all of the RTP requirements.

  • The MRTUA meets with the Minnesota DNR again about a month later for status updates and finalization of the grant recipients list.