Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) is teaming up with the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its next phase in helping rural communities build and make their local economies more resilient through outdoor recreation. The partnership ensures that ORR can continue its charge to provide support, information and resources to rural communities seeking to create economic opportunities through their outdoor recreation amenities. The Richard King Mellon Foundation, demonstrating its commitment to recreation, conservation, and innovative partnerships, is providing $100,000 to the effort to support ORR’s work and provide grants for rural communities.

The new partnership will also include updating and expanding the widely popular Rural Economic Development Toolkit, a resource developed in partnership with the Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy and The VF Foundation. Over the next year, ORR will add to the toolkit new success stories, grant opportunities, best practices, testimonials, stakeholder feedback, community self-assessment tools, examples of public-private partnerships, and an updated list of federal and state grants and technical assistance related to outdoor recreation economy development.

In addition, this support will enable ORR to launch the second round of its successful grant program in summer 2023 to supply small matching grants and in-kind technical assistance to rural communities with compelling recreation economy plans. For communities with big plans and limited bandwidth, grants like these can help unlock federal, state, and local match dollars like the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) Program, a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Border Regional Commission, and Appalachian Regional Commission. This year’s cohort of 25 new RERC communities will be eligible to apply for ORR grants.

These efforts will be complemented by ORR’s association and business members from across the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy, who can provide in-kind resources on best practices and strategies to develop high-quality recreation infrastructure.

“This support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will pay dividends for rural communities across the United States who recognize outdoor recreation’s role in economic diversification and resilience, but may not know where to start, need further technical assistance, or require catalytic funding to get their plans off the ground,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The past few years have illustrated outdoor recreation’s role in economic development, improved public health for all, connected communities, and so many other benefits. ORR is greatly appreciative of this new partnership and looks forward to sharing the results of this work over the coming months.”

“EPA is so pleased to hear about this new partnership that will support our rural community partners, helping them to implement the plans they developed through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program,” said Steph Bertaina, Senior Policy Analyst at Environmental Protection Agency who manages the RERC program. “So many rural communities are eager to leverage outdoor recreation to boost their economies and downtowns, and these grants will help our community partners do just that. Countless rural communities and small towns around the country are looking for more information and support in building sustainable, diverse outdoor recreation economies, and the updated Rural Economic Development Toolkit will provide much-needed resources for communities wanting to get started.”

“We’re thrilled to hear about the continued support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation for ORR’s work in rural economic development.” said Lee Davis, Executive Director of the Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy (CORE). “In Oregon and across the country, we’re seeing rural communities benefit from investing in outdoor recreation infrastructure and services.  Here at CORE, we’ve enjoyed working with ORR to provide information and resources to rural community leaders so they can leverage the natural beauty of the outdoors around them to help restore and grow their economies, and strengthen their communities.”