Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), working with Oregon State University’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative and the National Governors Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network, is helping rural communities build their outdoor recreation economies through a newly developed resource, the ORR Rural Economic Development Toolkit. Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic force nationally, generating $788 billion in economic output, comprising 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supporting 5.2 million jobs, and can also be utilized to strengthen individual communities across the country. The toolkit was developed with input from over 60 ORR stakeholders, includes links to a myriad resources and videos, and outlines real steps and actions rural communities can take, whether they already have a burgeoning outdoor recreation economy or they’re just getting started.

“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 of 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 is focused on supporting our nation’s rural communities. Not only are they gateways to much of the land and water we recreate on but they are also huge economic opportunity zones for the outdoor recreation industry. The toolkit provides state and local officials, as well as rural community members 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 various challenges rural communities could face as they take the steps to build their outdoor recreation economy – including limited staff, administrative bandwidth and funding challenges. Just as importantly, it 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 will provide a resource for communities building up their outdoor recreation economies. Most communities will need additional resources 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 these communities in securing the funding  and assistance they will need to accomplish their economic goals.

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