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Smart Growth

Recreation Economy for Rural Communities 2019 Application

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


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 2016 report Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities.

With Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance, a planning team will help communities bring together local residents and other stakeholders to decide on strategies and an action plan to grow the local outdoor recreation economy. The planning assistance process will take place over a period of four to six months, with a focal point being a two-day, facilitated community workshop. Participants will work together to identify a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize the locally set goals.

Partner communities are encouraged to pursue activities that foster environmentally friendly community development and Main Street revitalization through the conservation and sustainable use of public or private forests or other natural resources. Examples could 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.

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Eligibility and Special Considerations

Eligible applicants include local governments, Indian tribes, and nonprofit institutions and organizations representing any community in the United States. 

Special consideration will be given to communities that are:
  • Small towns,
  • Economically disadvantaged, such as those in Opportunity Zones, and/or
  • In the Northern Border region of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York (see the Northern Border Regional Commission's website for a list of counties in this region).

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How to Apply

The call for applications closed on May 31, 2019. It is available here for reference only.

Download the fillable PDF form at the bottom of this page using the latest version of the free Adobe Acrobat softwareExit Please do not complete the application form in your web browser. Please save using a file name that includes the name of the community, the state, and the last name of a point of contact.

Applicants must identify a point of contact from the lead organization who will be available for the duration of the project to lead coordination of local participation and to work with the planning assistance team.

Your application should give us a sense of how this planning assistance would help you and your partners revitalize a Main Street or neighborhood through development of the local recreation economy. In your application, you should answer these questions:

  • What is the project's geographic scope (e.g., neighborhood, town)?
  • What is the area's demographic makeup and economic condition?
  • What challenges does your community face around economic development and diversification?
  • What challenges does your community face in terms of Main Street revitalization?
  • How do you propose to leverage outdoor recreation and nearby forests and natural lands to strengthen Main Street revitalization and economic diversification?
  • What strategies and opportunities to build on the outdoor recreation economy would you like to explore through this program?
  • How would a community workshop through Recreation Economy for Rural Communities help you achieve your goals?
  • What will be the environmental benefits of achieving your goals?
  • What partners will be involved in creating and implementing your action plan, such as community representatives (governmental and non-governmental), public agencies and institutions, local development districts/regional development organizations, community colleges/ universities, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and businesses? How will elected officials support this effort?

Letters of support are not required. However, some applicants might wish to strengthen their applications by having partner organizations or local elected officials pledge to support the process and implementation of the resulting action plan. All letters of support should be emailed along with the application form by the application due date.

Email the completed application and optional letter(s) of support to by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on May 31, 2019.

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Selection Criteria

Selection of partner communities will take into account:

  • Need
    • The community is challenged by disinvestment downtown or in long-established neighborhoods.
    • The project benefits a traditionally underserved or high-poverty community.
  • Capacity
    • The lead organization has enough capacity and resources to help plan the workshop and implement the resulting action plan.
    • The lead organization could benefit from federal assistance to help plan a public workshop and convene stakeholders.
    • The lead organization has demonstrated the ability to benefit from other federal assistance it has received (if any).
  • Goals
    • The project supports development of the local recreation economy in a way that helps revitalize downtown or long-established neighborhoods, promotes economic development, and increases sustainable use of forests or other natural lands.
    • The community wants to address problems with the built environment, such as empty storefronts or streets where pedestrians feel unsafe, and the project has clear benefits for the place where it is located.
    • The project has environmental benefits or a connection to the protection of forests or other natural lands.
  • Fit of program
    • The applicant's goals and expectations fit with the scope and nature of the assistance.
    • This planning assistance effort would complement any previous federal investments in the community.
    • The project's location has (or the community is working to develop) the assets of a traditional downtown or close-in neighborhood, such as a centralized business district, walkable streets, or traditional Main Street development.
  • Partnerships
    • Given the intended project and goals, the applicant has identified appropriate partners, including within the local government.
    • The applicant has a history of working with the identified partners or has shown a willingness to do so.

We will contact all selected and non-selected communities upon completion of the review process in the summer of 2019.

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If you have questions about Recreation Economy for Rural Communities planning assistance or the application process, please read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Recreation Economy for Rural Communities. If your question is not answered there, please email

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