Outdoor Recreation Industry Applauds New Senate Bill

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) introduced the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act, which would provide much-needed capital for rural communities seeking to build and plan for recreation economies.

The Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act focuses on promoting economic growth in rural communities through coordination and strategic investment in recreation assets, planning and business development and manufacturing opportunities. This bill would provide vital capital to rural communities across the country working to revitalize and grow their jobs and economies through the outdoor recreation industry by providing $50 million a year in recreation and economic development funding. 

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, to 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 for main street revitalization through outdoor recreation.

“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,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “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.” 

“Rural communities across the country are dealing with economic and infrastructure challenges stemming from COVID-19, climate change, and transitioning economies, all while trying to seize opportunities from massive shifts in workforce and the influx of Americans seeking the outdoors. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will provide much-needed planning, infrastructure, and business support to communities as they attract a remote workforce, grow jobs, welcome visitors, and strengthen their economies through outdoor recreation,” said Jessica Turner, president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, of which the NMMA is a founding member. “ORR has long known the return from investing in outdoor recreation in rural economies, and we applaud Senators Schumer and Bennet for introducing this forward-thinking and essential legislation that will support every corner of the country.” 

Outdoor recreation participation sky-rocketed during the pandemic and shows no signs of receding. Overwhelmingly, recreational boating and fishing is the number one contributor to the outdoor recreation economy and is the largest activity in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In 2020, traditional outdoor recreation – such as boating, fishing, hiking, and RVing – thrived, with these activities increasing their contribution to the overall outdoor recreation economy by 22%. At the same time, economic studies continue to show that rural communities that plan for and invest in recreation businesses, access, and infrastructure are more resilient and grow faster with more sustainable economic development.