Outdoor Recreation Leaders Back ROI Act To Bolster Rural Communities

This bill provides much-needed support for rural communities seeking to build and plan for recreation economies.

Washington, DC — Leading outdoor recreation organizations are fully supporting Senators’ Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury’s newly-introduced Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act. This bill provides much-needed support for rural communities seeking to build and plan for recreation economies. 

ROI Act

If passed, the ROI Act’s funding could not come at a better time. Outdoor recreation participation sky-rocketed during the pandemic as millions of Americans flocked toward local and federal public lands and waters. For the gateway communities alongside these treasured destinations, this new interest presents excellent opportunities for economic diversification and stability, as well as new challenges to manage around stewardship, housing, and visitor management. The ROI Act would direct resources to help communities strategically integrate outdoor recreation into their plans.

“As evidenced by the hundreds of rural communities who have applied for federal technical assistance to support economic development through outdoor recreation in recent years, as well as the unprecedented numbers of Americans flocking to the outdoors, we have an outstanding opportunity to meet the moment through the Rural Outdoor Investment Act,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The ROI Act is aptly named as it will help bring rural communities a big return on outdoor recreation investments in the form of social, economic, and environmental benefits for locals and visitors alike. We applaud Senators Bennet, Schumer and Congresswoman Stansbury for introducing this commonsense and essential legislation that will support our nation’s rural communities and residents.”

The ROI Act will provide:

  • $30 million for public works through the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This would fund necessary infrastructure improvements from signage to boat ramps and new trails.
  • $5 million for grants through EDA for communities to create recreation economy plans that optimize their natural spaces including marketing, branding, business development, fundraising, and tourism management. 
  • $2.5 million in university partnerships to promote place-based research, education, and technical assistance to local stakeholders and businesses for this high growth sector.
  • $12.5 million for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) grants program for main street revitalization through outdoor recreation. 

Read more about the ROI Act here.

Read the full ROI Act bill language here.

Here is what the industry is saying:

“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will deliver much-needed funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure in rural communities at a time when a historic number of Americans are rediscovering their passion for getting outdoors. We applaud Senator Schumer for leading the charge to protect and expand outdoor recreation opportunities and look forward to working with him to pass this vital measure.” – Frank Hugelmeyer, President, National Marine Manufacturers Association

“Recreational fishing is a major economic driver in rural communities, and the Rural Outdoor Investment Act will help expand recreational opportunities while supporting local businesses and infrastructure. Promoting outdoor recreation is an important step in the revitalization of rural America.” – Glenn Hughes, President, American Sportfishing Association 

“RV owners love to take the road less traveled. The ROI Act will help rural communities further develop their capacity to provide support for outdoor recreation and the growing RV customer base, while improving job opportunities across America.” – Phil Ingrassia, President, National RV Dealers Association

“Many rural communities have found outdoor recreation to be a positive, sustainable way to support and grow their economies. Some have even reinvented their economies through outdoor recreation, especially in places that attract motorcyclists, dirt bike riders, ATV riders, and side-by-side drivers. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will help these communities better plan for expansion through infrastructure, management, and marketing, while creating more accessibility and better experiences for visitors. It’s a win-win as it helps American communities and more Americans discover the joys and health benefits of the outdoors. A big thanks to Senators Michael Bennet, Chuck Schumer, and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury for their leadership in the ROI Act.” — Erik Pritchard, President and CEO, Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America

“America Outdoors is pleased to support the Rural Outdoor Investment Act. Outfitters welcome an increased focus on planning for outdoor recreation in rural communities, on partnership for research and education, and on maintaining outdoor recreation facilities. Repairing critical recreation infrastructure will significantly help outfitters facilitate access to the great outdoors for folks from all walks of life.” – Aaron Bannon, Executive Director, America Outdoors

“As the outdoor recreation economy continues to grow and send visitors further afield, it’s important to make sure the benefits of that growth are shared throughout our nation’s rural communities. This will require thoughtful planning and management tools to adapt to increasing visitation. With investments like ROI, better infrastructure and planning can lead to better access, and more remote tracts of land can be enjoyed by all Americans. As an organization devoted to providing that access and ensuring that it benefits the surrounding communities, we applaud the introduction of this bill.” – Dan Mahoney, Public Policy Specialist, American Prairie

“Snowmobiling is at the heart of winter outdoor recreation for rural communities in the northern US. We support the ROI Act because investments in trail infrastructure strengthen winter tourism economies and open the exciting world of snowmobiling to more Americans.” – Ed Klim, President, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will create common-sense changes to pre-existing programs and direct money to communities to help bolster and grow their outdoor recreation economies. From additional funding to improve boat ramps to money aimed at helping communities’ market thei recreational offerings, this bill will benefit the recreational boating industry, boaters and anglers, and rural communities alike.” – Jeff Strong, Chairman, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas Board and President, Strong’s Marine, Mattituck, N.Y.

“NFRA strongly supports the ROI Act because it astutely recognizes that we need good infrastructure in place to create and sustain great outdoor recreational opportunities. And the return on the investment is manyfold given that outdoor recreation not only benefits rural economies as well as our national economy, it benefits the life of each person who recreates outdoors both physically and mentally. NFRA thanks Senators Bennett, Schumer and Congresswoman Stansbury for their introduction of this tremendously beneficial legislation.” – Marily Reese, Executive Director, National Forest Recreation Association  

“Demand for outdoor recreation is only growing, and NSAA supports the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act and its emphasis on much needed investments in infrastructure, planning, and business assistance. This measure complements Senator Bennet’s SHRED Act by making recreation a priority, boosting rural economies, and improving the recreation experience for all.” – Geraldine Link, Director of Public Policy, National Ski Areas Association.  

“In rural areas, the $862 billion outdoor recreation industry and economic growth are closely connected. This legislation aims to reinforce this connection by investing over $50 million annually in outdoor recreation infrastructure, new outdoor recreation experiences, and assistance for emerging businesses. Improved infrastructure also means better access to the outdoors for everyone, regardless of location. We applaud Senators Chuck Schumer and Michael Bennet for leading this effort and for their commitment to the outdoor industry and rural communities across the nation.” – Kent Ebersole, President, Outdoor Industry Association

“Throughout the pandemic, Americans ventured outdoors for respite and renewal. We now have a unique opportunity to harness outdoor recreation for revitalization and resilience. This legislation will help America’s rural communities invest in recreation infrastructure that will bolster economies and develop new workforce opportunities. At REI Co-op we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well-lived. By enhancing access to quality recreation opportunities, this legislation will also support the special benefits to health and wellbeing provided by time in nature.” – Taldi Harrison, Director of Government Affairs, REI Co-op

“At Rivian, we build products that enable adventures and encourage exploration of the outdoors. As members of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and its associated Together Outdoors coalition, we recognize the economic and health benefits outdoor recreation brings to rural communities. Upgrading recreation infrastructure around the country will help rural communities maximize these benefits and prepare for a more sustainable and equitable economic future. We thank Senator Bennet, Congresswoman Stansbury, and the other lead sponsors for seeing this too, and for introducing the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act to accelerate this effort.” – Dan West, Director of Public Policy, Rivian

“Over the past few years there has been a fundamental change in the way Americans travel, vacation, and live as more people turn to the outdoors and outdoor recreation for not only the enjoyment it brings but also the mental and physical health benefits. This resurgence of the great outdoors provides an excellent opportunity for economic growth in rural communities, many of which have recreation assets like campgrounds, trails, lakes, and rivers. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will provide vital funding to help these communities grow through smart investment in outdoor infrastructure and related businesses. As more and more RVers hit the road, this legislation will improve not only their experiences, but also the rural communities making investments in recreation infrastructure.” – Jason Rano, Vice President of Government Affairs, RV Industry Association

“Strategic investment in outdoor recreation planning, infrastructure, and business will help rural communities to grow resilience and provide an economic foundation to face the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Rural communities understand the ecosystem services value of outdoor recreation, and these critical and timely investments will help create career pathways, grow prosperity, enhance public health, and improve quality of life in rural communities across the country.”  Rachel Franchina, Executive Director, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals

ABOUT ORR  

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable  is the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy. ORR focuses on the growth of outdoor recreation by building a better environment for the sustainable growth of outdoor recreation businesses and driving a broader understanding of the value of the outdoor recreation economy. Our membership includes national outdoor trade association members, business entities, nonprofit organizations, and universities — serving more than 110,000 businesses and representing America’s, boating, fishing, RVing, biking, hiking, camping, hunting, motorized, diving, horseback and skiing communities among many more


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