WASHINGTON, D.C. — WASHINGTON, D.C. — Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) announced the opening of the third round of its rural implementation grant opportunity to help rural communities grow their local economies and make them more resilient through outdoor recreation. These grants, a collaboration with the federal Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program, are made possible through funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and help ensure that ORR can continue its charge to provide support, information, and resources to rural communities seeking to create economic opportunities through outdoor recreation.

Jessica Wahl Turner, President of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, stated, “Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic driver to the tune of $1.1 trillion nationally and a major economic force in scores of rural communities in every state. These grants will provide vital resources and support to help communities expand access to outdoor recreation as a driver of economic development while also improving the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike. We are excited about the innovative projects that will come to life through these investments as well as the increased access to and inclusion in the outdoors.” 

This marks the third round of ORR’s successful grant program that debuted in 2021 and comes on the heels of the release of the organization’s updated Rural Economic Development Toolkit at the beginning of 2024. Last year’s grants in California, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, and Vermont supported including a business support grant to help position a bike shop as a central hub for the community with contemporary renovations, a bilingual outdoor recreation marketing hub and campaign, a statue to mark the beginning of a trail and the region’s significance to the Cherokee people, a centralized/primary information website to provide information about area’s recreation activities, and the restoration of a trail destroyed by catastrophic flooding.

This grant round is open to any participants in either cohort of the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) Program who have not yet received funding from ORR. RERC provides technical assistance to communities who are looking to build or grow sustainable recreation economies and RERC staff have recently completed workshops in all awarded communities. In two rounds of the RERC program, nearly 300 applications were received, indicating the widespread demand for outdoor recreation economy development across the United States.

Four grants of $10,000 will be awarded alongside in-kind technical assistance from ORR and its members to rural communities with compelling recreation economy implementation proposals. For communities with big plans and limited bandwidth, grants like these can help unlock federal, state, and local match dollars from programs like USDA Rural Development, state infrastructure funds, and interest from private foundations.

ORR works to illustrate the benefits of outdoor recreation to rural communities as well as ongoing needs to support economic diversification and resilience through outdoor recreation. This includes a map of over 160 communities from across the United States actively seeking assistance to achieve their outdoor recreation and economic development goals.

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“With ORR’s continued support, RERC community partners can realize their dreams to boost outdoor recreation and promote main street revitalization,” saidNigel Fields, Director of EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization. “These grants are necessary to spark funding across more communities to help them build sustainable, outdoor recreation economies while protecting the character and natural resources of rural communities and small towns.” 
“Appalachia has unlimited potential when it comes to growing our outdoor recreation industry, which boosts our region’s economy and quality of life,” saidARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin.“ARC is proud that the RERC program is advancing ORR’s goal of helping rural communities capitalize on the nationwide interest in our region’s beautiful outdoor assets, and we encourage Appalachian communities to take advantage of this funding opportunity.”

“Small rural communities in the Northern Border region are increasingly looking to invest in outdoor recreation as a way to grow their economy – but need help in planning and building recreation infrastructure,” said NBRC Federal Co-Chair Chris Saunders. “These awards made by ORR are critical to ensuring that plans developed through the RERC community planning process can quickly move into action.”