Outdoor Recreation Leaders Back Bill to Bolster Rural Communities, Outdoor Recreation Economy

Leading outdoor recreation organizations are fully supporting Senator Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury’s newly-introduced Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act. This bill provides much-needed support for rural communities seeking to build and plan for recreation economies.

If passed, the ROI Act’s funding could not come at a better time. Outdoor recreation participation sky-rocketed during the pandemic as millions of Americans flocked toward local and federal public lands and waters. For the gateway communities alongside these treasured destinations, this new interest presents excellent opportunities for economic diversification and stability, as well as new challenges to manage around stewardship, housing, and visitor management. The ROI Act would direct resources to help communities strategically integrate outdoor recreation into their plans.

“As evidenced by the hundreds of rural communities who have applied for federal technical assistance to support economic development through outdoor recreation in recent years, as well as the unprecedented numbers of Americans flocking to the outdoors, we have an outstanding opportunity to meet the moment through the Rural Outdoor Investment Act,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The ROI Act is aptly named as it will help bring rural communities a big return on outdoor recreation investments in the form of social, economic, and environmental benefits for locals and visitors alike. We applaud Senators Bennet, Schumer and Congresswoman Stansbury for introducing this commonsense and essential legislation that will support our nation’s rural communities and residents.”

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 and 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 program for main street revitalization through outdoor recreation.

Read more about the ROI Act here.

Read the full ROI Act bill language here.