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Smart Growth

Recreation Economy for Rural Communities

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Recreation Economy for Rural Communities is a new planning assistance program to help communities develop strategies and an action plan to revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation.

Outdoor activities are increasingly popular across the United States. Communities can take advantage of this trend to revitalize Main Streets. By conserving forests and other natural lands and making them available for outdoor recreation, small towns can boost air quality and water quality and focus development downtown. Promoting outdoor recreation can also create jobs and offer new opportunities for people to connect with the natural world. For more information on the outdoor economy, read the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2016 report Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities.

Activities that can foster environmentally friendly community development and Main Street revitalization through conservation and sustainable use of public or private forests or other natural resources include:

  • Ensuring local residents, including young people, have connections and opportunities related to nearby outdoor assets to foster community pride, good stewardship, and local economic benefits.
  • Developing or expanding trail networks to attract overnight visitors and new businesses and foster use by local residents.
  • Developing in-town amenities, such as broadband service; housing; or shops, restaurants, or breweries, to serve residents and attract new visitors and residents with an interest in nearby outdoor assets.
  • Marketing Main Street as a gateway to nearby natural lands to capture and amplify outdoor recreation dollars.
  • Developing a community consensus on the management of outdoor assets to reduce potential conflicts and ensure sustainable use of resources.

Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket, MaineThe Appalachian Trail Cafe in downtown Millinocket, Maine, capitalizes on the nearby trail to draw hikers and local residents.For example:

Recreation Economy for Rural Communities is sponsored by the USDA-Forest Service, the Northern Border Regional Commission, and EPA.

See our Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities page to learn more about how smart growth strategies can help rural places strengthen their economies, improve quality of life, and protect the environment and human health.

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2019 Call for Applications

The 2019 call for applications for planning assistance from Recreation Economy for Rural Communities closed on May 31, 2019. The call for applications is available here for reference only.

If you have questions about the program or the application process, please read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Recreation Economy for Rural Communities.

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