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ORR Launches Second Rural Economic Development Toolkit

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) released the second edition of its Rural Economic Development Toolkit on a webinar with more than 1,000 registrants.

The resource, built upon three years of extensive research across the United States, is a comprehensive guide for communities looking to strengthen their economies through outdoor recreation. At a time when the outdoor recreation economy at large surpassed $1 trillion in economic impact, and communities around the country are utilizing outdoor recreation infrastructure and access for economic diversification, this resource is well-suited to meet the unprecedented demand for support.

ORR’s Vice President of Programs Chris Perkins said, “This toolkit is more than just a resource; it’s also a roadmap for communities to enhance and build robust outdoor recreation economies, sourced from community leaders around the United States. Over 1000 people from communities and organizations nationwide signed up to learn from this tool, a testament to the growing interest and dedication towards sustainable economic development through outdoor recreation in rural America.”

Backed by the generous support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and with the support of Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy, the toolkit represents a significant advancement in empowering rural communities. In today’s nationally broadcast webinar for Congressional and agency staff, community leaders, economic development professionals and recreation advocates, Perkins, the principal author of the toolkit, presented a broad array of new research and resources. Following his presentation, community leaders from various rural regions including Old Fort, North Carolina; Athens County, Ohio; the Pennsylvania Wilds; and Beckley, West Virginia, shared their success strategies, emphasizing the toolkit’s practical applications.

Key features of the new toolkit:

  • In-depth modules covering topics such as Economic Development, Funding, Housing, Climate Resiliency, Accessibility in Recreation Infrastructure, Tribal Leadership, Data Utilization and more.
  • A comprehensive library of economic development examples in outdoor recreation, spanning every state in the country.
  • An updated list of federal grants and technical assistance programs specifically for outdoor recreation economy development.
  • A Community Self-Assessment Tool to assist communities in evaluating their outdoor recreation potential.
  • A collection of Recreation Infrastructure Toolkits from ORR members, providing detailed insights into funding and development in rural areas.

From coast to coast, rural communities used the original toolkit to design projects aimed at boosting outdoor recreation economies, ORR said. One example includes New Mexico, where local practitioners utilized the best practices outlined in the first edition of the toolkit to create a self-assessment tool to evaluate their economic development plans over time and determine what to prioritize. Perkins has been invited to present on the toolkit to dozens of national, state and local audiences on the toolkit’s findings in recent years. The updated toolkit will make even more success stories like these possible.

The launch of the toolkit marks a significant milestone in ORR’s ongoing commitment to supporting and developing rural economies through outdoor recreation, the organization said. Along with today’s release, ORR also announced its Rural Toolkit Mapping Project, designed to showcase the level of need for outdoor recreation economic development support around the United States.

Read the full report from the RV Industry Association (RVIA) here.

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