Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2022

New Senate Bill Would Bolster Recreation in Rural Communities

Leading outdoor recreation organizations are supporting the newly introduced Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act. The bill, introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), would provide 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).

"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 skyrocketed 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 would provide:

  • $30 million for public works through the Economic Development Administration. This would fund necessary infrastructure improvements from signage to new trails and boat ramps.
  • $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.

"In rural communities, the $689 billion outdoor recreation industry and economic development go hand-in-hand," said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. "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."

"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," said Laurel Harkness, executive director of the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals. "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."

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