Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), working with Oregon State University’s Outdoor Recreation Economic Initiative and the National Governors Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network, helps rural communities build their outdoor recreation economies through a newly developed resource, the ORR Rural Economic Development Toolkit

Outdoor recreation generates $788 billion in economic output, comprising 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP and supporting 5.2 million jobs, and can also strengthen individual communities in the U.S. 

The toolkit, developed with input from over 60 ORR stakeholders, includes links to resources and videos and outlines steps and actions rural communities can use. 

“We are excited to get the Rural Economic Development Toolkit up, running and out to the states and rural communities as the go-to resource to expand local outdoor recreation economies,” said Lindsey Davis, acting executive director, ORR. “It may seem simple for communities to build outdoor recreation economies, but there are a ton of factors rural communities struggle with when attempting to broaden their communities’ economies, from bandwidth and monetary resources to messaging and public perceptions. This toolkit will be the resource to help communities navigate those challenges and be successful.”

ORR focuses on supporting rural communities in the U.S. Not only are they gateways to much of the land and water we recreate on, but they are also enormous economic opportunity zones for the outdoor recreation industry. 

The toolkit provides state and local officials and rural communities information on 15 best practices for developing an outdoor recreation economy, from “Identify and Empower Local Champions” and “Build Collaboratives” to “Achieve Buy-In from the State” and “Ensure Value Capture.” It also outlines the challenges rural communities could face as they take steps to build their outdoor recreation economy – including limited staff, administrative bandwidth and funding challenges. It also discusses how to tackle misperceptions about outdoor recreation being simply about increasing tourism and dealing with cultural and infrastructure changes that occur when shifting reliance from just one economic driver to multiple.

The Rural Economic Development Toolkit provides a resource for communities building their outdoor recreation economies. Most communities need additional help to implement their plans. To overcome this hurdle, ORR compiled a list of federal grants and technical assistance to accompany the toolkit, which will support communities in securing the funding and service they need to accomplish their economic goals.

ORR plans to share the toolkit with state offices of outdoor recreation, industry businesses, community chambers, and others in the coming weeks and months. ORR will also promote the toolkit through social media and host a webinar on January 21 for invited communities, stakeholders and others.

Photo courtesy ORR