The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) is stepping up to help rural communities reinvigorate their local economies and create resilient communities through outdoor recreation thanks in large part to support from The VF Foundation. The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program, launched in 2019, is underway and ORR is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to support implementation grants for communities who have undergone technical assistance this year. ORR members know the value of recreation in rural communities and with The VF Foundation funding are ensuring these places have the initial investment they need to create an economic growth engine through the outdoors.
Last year, the EPA, USFS and NBRC announced 10 communities selected for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program to help revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation. Those 10 communities – out of 170 that initially applied – include, Cambridge, N.Y., Fryeburg, Maine, Giles County, Va., Glenwood Springs, Colo., Gorham, N.H., Grants, N.M., Jasper, Ala., John Day, Ore., Poultney, VT., and Thompson Falls, Mont. The rural communities chosen will need to apply through an ORR portal to receive implementation grant funding to help make their economic revitalization plans come to life. Those communities selected will be announced in December.
“Building on the success of EPA’s recreation economy technical assistance program, we are pleased to see ORR’s investment in this critical sector,” said Associate Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Policy Brittany Bolen. “By investing in these untapped natural resources, rural communities can improve air and water quality while also boosting the local economy.”
“The Forest Service applauds ORR for helping rural communities advance their local recreation economy,” said Deputy Chief of USDA Forest Service John Phipps. “Creative partnerships like this are key to the future of our nation’s forests and the communities that depend on them.”
“We’ve been so happy with EPA’s leadership and approach to working with these communities, and ORR’s continued investment will advance this work even further, building additional capacity and momentum at the right time,” said Executive Director of the Northern Border Regional Commission Rich Grogan.
“Opening the door to new and expanded recreation opportunities through locally-led programing will help our rural communities build back better during this difficult time,” said Director of The VF Foundation and Global Impact Gloria Schoch. “We’re honored to collaborate with like-minded stakeholders to provide more rural communities with the necessary resources to help grow their economies and improve quality of life through greater access to the outdoors.”
“We are ready to support this implementation phase of the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program,” said Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Executive Director Jessica Turner. “During the pandemic, the outdoor recreation community has seen huge increases in outdoor participation, and we don’t see it waning any time soon. At the same time, rural communities across the nation are in dire need of economic revitalization or diversification in order to strengthen their resiliency. Now is the perfect time for rural communities to take action and take advantage of the outdoor recreation economy to help provide more jobs and revenue.”
The 10 communities selected last year received technical assistance to begin creating plans to revitalize their communities utilizing outdoor recreation, whether through new trail connections or attracting new recreation-related economic opportunities. Their plans include identifying a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize the locally set goals.