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ORR Unveils Second Edition of Rural Economic Development Toolkit

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) has announced the release of the second edition of its Rural Economic Development Toolkit, a comprehensive guide aimed at bolstering economies through outdoor recreation. 

This toolkit emerges as a pivotal resource for communities across the United States, especially in the context of the evolving economic landscape.

Designed to aid advocates and community leaders, the toolkit offers a range of tools and strategies for enhancing outdoor recreation economies. 

The new edition is enriched with success strategies sourced from various communities, focusing on creating healthy communities, improving quality of life, supporting robust businesses, and fostering resilient economies.

The toolkit’s inception in the summer of 2020 coincided with a significant shift in the outdoor recreation landscape in the U.S., primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s impact led to a surge in interest in outdoor activities, as Americans sought safe, family-friendly options, thereby generating substantial economic activity in areas providing outdoor recreation access.

Additionally, the rise of remote work has influenced demographic shifts, with more people moving to communities offering a higher quality of life. Outdoor recreation destinations have become a significant factor in these relocation decisions, highlighting the sector’s growing importance in lifestyle choices.

Rural communities in the U.S. face numerous challenges, including economic and cultural shifts that threaten their long-term sustainability. The 2008 recession, for instance, resulted in the loss of thousands of businesses in smaller counties. Industries such as coal, oil shale, and agriculture have experienced fluctuations, leaving communities dependent on these sectors in a state of uncertainty.

The decline of traditional industries like coal, particularly in states like Wyoming and West Virginia, has been notable. According to a Rural Innovation Group report, sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and mining now account for less than a quarter of rural employment. This shift is attributed to changing industrial needs and the concentration of innovative companies in urban areas.

In response to these challenges, the toolkit positions the enhancement of outdoor recreation infrastructure as a key strategy for economic diversification and resilience in rural America. This approach aligns with the growing recognition of outdoor recreation as a vital component of community well-being and economic health.

The benefits of improved outdoor recreation infrastructure are manifold. They include enhancing the quality of life, benefiting physical and mental health, connecting communities to their environment and each other, attracting new visitors, and stimulating economic activity. Additionally, the development of outdoor recreation infrastructure can lead to the creation of new jobs and businesses, further connecting people to these amenities.

The toolkit also underscores the role of outdoor recreation in bolstering other sectors. By attracting outdoor-oriented professionals, communities can enhance their appeal and competitiveness in various industries, contributing to overall economic growth and sustainability.

The second edition of the ORR’s Rural Economic Development Toolkit represents a significant step forward in supporting communities seeking to leverage outdoor recreation for economic and social benefits. As the outdoor recreation industry continues to evolve, this toolkit provides a valuable resource for communities looking to adapt and thrive in this dynamic sector.

For more information, visit Rural Development – Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.


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