Rural Outdoor Investment Act Would Help Rural Communities Prepare for and Grow Outdoor Recreation Economies, Infrastructure

Leading outdoor recreation organizations are fully supporting U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) newly-introduced Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act. This bill provides much-needed capital for rural communities seeking to build and plan for recreation economies.

“Rural communities across the country are dealing with economic and infrastructure challenges stemming from COVID-19, climate change, and transitioning economies, all while trying to seize opportunities from massive shifts in workforce and the influx of Americans seeking the outdoors. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will provide much-needed planning, infrastructure, and business support to communities as they attract a remote workforce, grow jobs, welcome visitors, and strengthen their economies through outdoor recreation,” said Jessica Turner, president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “ORR has long known the return from investing in outdoor recreation in rural economies, and we applaud Senators Schumer and Bennet for introducing this forward-thinking and essential legislation that will support every corner of the country.”

If passed, the ROI Act’s funding could not come at a better time. Outdoor recreation participation sky-rocketed during the pandemic and shows no signs of receding. At the same time, economic studies continue to show that rural communities that plan for and invest in recreation businesses, access, and infrastructure are more resilient and grow faster with more sustainable economic development.

The ROI Act will provide:

  • $30 million for public works through the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This would fund necessary infrastructure improvements from signage to boat ramps, to new trails.
  • $5 million for grants through EDA for communities to create recreation economy plans that optimize their natural spaces including marketing, branding, business development, fundraising, and tourism management.
  • $2.5 million in university partnerships to promote place-based research, education and technical assistance to local stakeholders and businesses for this high growth sector.
  • $12.5 million for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) grants for main street revitalization through outdoor recreation.

Here is what the industry is saying:

“In rural communities, the $689 billion outdoor recreation industry and economic development go hand-in-hand. This legislation would support and grow that partnership by investing more than $50 million a year in outdoor recreation infrastructure, new outdoor recreation experiences, and assistance to up and coming businesses. Better infrastructure also leads to better access to the outdoors for all, regardless of zip code. We applaud Senators Chuck Schumer and Michael Bennet for their leadership on this measure and their commitment to the outdoor industry and our nation’s rural communities.” – Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association

“Strategic investment in outdoor recreation planning, infrastructure, and business will help rural communities to grow resilience and provide an economic foundation to face the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Rural communities understand the ecosystem services value of outdoor recreation, and these critical and timely investments will help create career pathways, grow prosperity, enhance public health, and improve quality of life in rural communities across the country.”  Laurel Harkness, Executive Director, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals

“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will deliver much-needed funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure in rural communities at a time when a historic number of Americans are rediscovering their passion for getting outdoors. We applaud Senator Schumer for leading the charge to protect and expand outdoor recreation opportunities and look forward to working with him to pass this vital measure.” – Frank Hugelmeyer, President, National Marine Manufacturers Association

“RV owners love to take the road less traveled. The ROI Act will help rural communities further develop their capacity to provide support for outdoor recreation and the growing RV customer base, while improving job opportunities across America.” – Phil Ingrassia, President, National RV Dealers Association

“In the past two years there has been a fundamental change in the way Americans travel, vacation, and live as more people turn to the outdoors and outdoor recreation for not only the enjoyment it brings but also the mental and physical benefits of being outdoors. This resurgence of the great outdoors is an excellent opportunity for economic growth in rural communities, many of which have recreation assets like trails, campgrounds, lakes, and rivers. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act is an important piece of legislation that will provide funding to help these communities grow their local economies through investment in outdoor infrastructure and related businesses. As more and more RVers hit the road, heading to their favorite destination to take part in outdoor recreation activities, this legislation will improve not only their experiences, but also the rural communities making investments in recreation infrastructure.” – Jay Landers, Vice President of Government Affairs, RV Industry Association

“Demand for outdoor recreation is only growing, and NSAA supports the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act and its emphasis on much needed investments in infrastructure, planning, and business assistance. This measure complements Senator Bennet’s SHRED Act by making recreation a priority, boosting rural economies, and improving the recreation experience for all.” – Geraldine Link, Director of Public Policy, National Ski Areas Association.  

“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will create common-sense changes to pre-existing programs and direct money to communities to help bolster and grow their outdoor recreation economies. From additional funding to improve boat ramps to money aimed at helping communities market their recreational offerings, this bill will benefit the recreational boating industry, boaters and anglers, and rural communities alike.” – Jeff Strong, Vice Chairman, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas Board and President, Strong’s Marine, Mattituck, N.Y.