Apply for New EPA Support to Redevelop Recreational Economies in Rural Communities
EPA rolls out new planning assistance program to help communities develop action plans to revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation.
Application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 31, 2019.
As consumers shift their behavior away from the passive recreation and mass consumption that characterized the last century and towards an economy built on experience and quality, outdoor activities are increasingly popular across the United States. Many communities are takiing advantage of this trend to revitalize Main Streets while at the same time leaning on existing assets in the community and building from the ground up.
By conserving forests, natural lands and open spaces, making them available for outdoor recreational opportunities, small towns can boost air quality, water quality and encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle among its residents, all while fostering and focus real estate development in the community. Critically, promoting and supporting outdoor recreation can also create jobs and offer new opportunities for people to connect with the natural world. When transit, bike paths, hiking trails, rail-to-trail projects and other mobility connectors are incorporated into recretional development activities, the positive impacts to the community compound even greater.
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.
The Appalachian Trail Cafe in downtown Millinocket, Maine, capitalizes on the nearby trail to draw hikers and local residents.For example:
- Forest County, Pennsylvania, was a partner in Local Foods, Local Places, a similar, EPA-managed planning assistance program. Following the community workshop and planning process, the community secured grants to renovate a historic train depot in the heart of downtown Marienville and to connect several trails that will position the town as an outdoor recreation hub for the region. Click here to see the action plan that guided Forest County (PDF, opens in new window).
- Millinocket, Maine, participated in Cool & Connected, an EPA-managed program that helps communities use broadband to revitalize downtowns. The town lost a major employer and is taking advantage of the nearby natural beauty and recreational resources, including Mt. Katahdin, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail, to draw new visitors and residents. Learn more about how the Cool & Connected assistance is helping Millinocket plan for its future. EXIT
2019 Call for Applications
Communities are invited to apply for planning assistance from Recreation Economy for Rural Communities. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 31, 2019. Click here for the call for applications and the application form >>
Community representatives interested in applying for planning assistance from the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities initiative are invited to join a webinar presentation and Q&A on May 7 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST. Click here to register for the webinar >>.
For more information on the outdoor economy, read the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2016 report Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities.
See EPA's 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.