U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, was given a lifetime achievement award Wednesday for his advocacy for the Recreational Trail Program by the Coalition of Recreational Trails, a Washington, D.C.-based group that comprises national and regional trail groups.
Formed in 1992, the coalition has given out only four lifetime awards, according to co-chairman Derrick Crandall, who pointed to Michaud's efforts to preserve the RTP when it – along with nearly 100 other programs funded through the gas tax – were proposed for elimination two years ago.
"The (RTP) was continued at the same level of funding, $85 million a year, as the previous six-year bill," Crandall said. "It would not have happened without the kind of strong, bipartisan leadership that Mr. Michaud and Mr. (Congressman Tom) Petri (R-Wisconsin) provided in the House Transportation Committee."
It's no secret that people from all around come to Maine to experience its natural beauty by hiking, biking, ATV-ing and snowmobiling on the state's vast trail network. A portion of the state's more than 14,000 miles of trails owe their existence to the federal program.
Maine receives about $1.5 million a year through the program, and 556 trails have benefited, Crandall said.
According to the Maine State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2009-2014, outdoor recreation is the primary driver for 18-23 percent of the people who visit Maine, where tourism is the largest industry, producing $10.1 billion in goods and services, $425 million in tax revenue and roughly 140,000 jobs.
Michaud, who was presented the award at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill during a ceremony attended by about a dozen other lawmakers, said in a written statement that he was honored to receive the award.
“The Recreational Trails Program has been central to improving our trail systems – providing a better, safer experience for hikers, bikers, skiers and snowmobilers across Maine,” Michaud said. “In Maine, the outdoors is a part of our heritage and a part of our economy. The Recreational Trails Program does incredible work, and I am honored by this recognition. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll continue working to ensure this critical program gets the funding it deserves – I believe this is a great example of the type of bipartisan effort that everyone can unite behind.”
This is the second lifetime achievement award Michaud has received in as many years. In 2013, he was given the National Association of Development Organizations' Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the House Transportation Committee's subcommittee on economic development. The award was given for his advocacy on behalf of the Economic Development Administration and the Northern Border Commission, which was created through federal legislation he authored.