H.R. 685: United States Civil Rights Trail System Act

H.R. 685

United States Civil Rights Trail System Act

Rep. William Lacy Clay

September 29, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 685 under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage, on Tuesday, September 29. H.R. 685 was introduced on January 26, 2009, by Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources which reported the bill by unanimous consent on September 10, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 685 would require the Archivist of the U.S., in coordination with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior, to study the feasibility of establishing the U.S. Civil Rights Trail System, marking historically significant locations that relate to the civil rights movement.

The bill would also authorize a new pilot program to establish and maintain such trails. The bill would require the Secretary of Interior to establish at least six such trails "as soon as practicable." H.R. 685 would authorize "such sums as are necessary" to carry out the pilot program through FY 2016.



The National Trail System is a federally managed network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails that was created by the National Trails System Act of 1968. The system is managed by the National Park Service (NPS).  According to the NPS, there are three distinct types of trails, national scenic trails, national historic trails, and national recreation trails.  National historic trails are defined as "commemorate historic (and prehistoric) routes of travel that are of significance to the entire Nation."   Since 1968, 30 national trails have been established.

The NPS is facing a huge maintenance deficit and collapsing national park infrastructure. According to CRS, the NPS backlog for maintenance on existing buildings, trails, and other infrastructure was more than $9 billion in FY 2006. The backlog is a result of the NPS failing to do scheduled maintenance and upkeep that was not funded or carried out according to plan.  As a result of the backlog, NPS infrastructure is deteriorating at a faster and faster rate. For instance, the estimated maintenance backlog more than doubled, from $4.25 billion in 1999, in just seven years. CRS notes that some estimates put the existing backlog as high as $12.42 billion.  Some Members may be concerned that H.R. 685 expands the responsibilities of NPS without addressing the current management structure which has resulted in such a large, unfunded maintenance backlog.



According to CBO, H.R. 685 would "cost about $500,000 over the next three years."