Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) is helping rural communities reinvigorate their economies through outdoor recreation through support from The VF Foundation.

The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program, launched in 2019, is underway. ORR is working with the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to implement grants for communities who have undergone technical assistance this year.

Last year, the EPA, USFS and NBRC announced 10 communities selected for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program. Out of 170 applicants, the 10 include, Cambridge, NY; Fryeburg, ME; Giles County, VA; Glenwood Springs, CO; Gorham, NH; Grants, NM; Jasper, AL; John Day, OR; Poultney, VTt; and Thompson Falls, MT.

The rural communities chosen need to apply through the ORR portal to receive implementation grant funding. 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 Brittany Bolen, Associate Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Policy.“ 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 John Phipps, Deputy Chief of USDA Forest Service. “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 Rich Grogan, Executive Director of the Northern Border Regional Commission. 

 “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 Gloria Schoch, Director of The VF Foundation and Global Impact.  “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 going,” said Jessica Turner, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) Executive Director. “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.