MONTE VISTA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to announce assistance for 25 small and rural communities from across the country, including Monte Vista, to identify strategies to grow their outdoor recreation economies and revitalize main streets through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) program.
Monte Vista was the only city in Colorado chosen for the program this year.
“This planning assistance will make it easier for people to get outside, boost their appreciation for the outdoors, improve their health and quality of life, create jobs, and strengthen our rural communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker.
RERC is a planning assistance program jointly administered by the EPA, the USDA Forest Service, NBRC, and ARC that helps rural communities leverage outdoor recreation to revitalize their Main Streets, leading to improved environmental protection and public health outcomes.
Communities are encouraged to pursue activities that foster environmentally friendly community development and revitalization through the conservation and sustainable use of public or private forests or other natural resources.
“The economic impact of outdoor recreation near our national forests and grasslands is vital to support health and prosperity in rural America,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Efforts to reinvigorate main streets through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program is an important step to help communities realize all the benefits that adjacent national forests and grasslands make possible.”
San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!), the City of Monte Vista, and partners would like to boost equitable access to outdoor recreation for residents, increase tourism opportunities that tie into local assets like the annual Sandhill Crane Festival, and strengthen main street revitalization and small business development efforts in Downtown Monte Vista.
The local steering committee would like to connect the community to local recreation opportunities in nearby parks and trails as well as on surrounding public lands for the Monte Vista community, improving public health by getting people outside and active.
A federal planning team will work with each community over the course of four to six months, with a two-day facilitated community workshop as the focal point.
Participants will work together to develop strategies and an action plan to grow their local outdoor recreation economies. Some workshops are currently underway.
Communities were chosen following a comprehensive interagency review process from a pool of more than 100 applicants.
Over 160 million Americans over the age of 6 participated in outdoor recreation in 2020, according to the 2021 Outdoor Participation Trends Report, and sales figures across the industry broke records as Americans flocked to the outdoors in search of safe, family-friendly opportunities during the pandemic.
These activities — which include camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, RVing, boating, running, swimming, baseball, winter sports, and many others — can bring new investment and jobs to local economies, benefit health and wellness, raise awareness in conservation of forests and other natural resources, and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
In 2020, outdoor recreation activities generated 4.3 million quality, high paying jobs across a wide variety of industries, accounting for 3% of all employment in the United States.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis calculated the economic output of outdoor recreation in 2020 to be $689 billion, surpassing industries such as mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing.
The EPA Office of Community Revitalization supports locally led, community-driven efforts to expand economic opportunity, protect human health and the environment, and create and enhance the places that people love through technical assistance, publications, research, tools, and grants.
The USDA Forest Service develops and implements place-based recreation planning using collaborative processes with communities and outdoor recreation and tourism providers within regional destination areas.
Forest Service recreation programs support over 205,000 jobs, the majority of which are in rural gateway communities near national forests. The agency partners with states, tribes, local communities, and landowners to promote shared stewardship of public and privately-owned forests and grasslands.