Building Outdoor Communities Program launches
The WNC: MADE X MTNS Partnership officially launched the Building Outdoor Communities Program (BOC) last week, welcoming over 100 attendees for an introduction to its two-year outdoor community economic development initiative.
This place-based program is focused on capacity building, technical assistance, training, connectivity and education for communities seeking to advance their outdoor economy goals.
“It was an incredible celebration to host a diversity of stakeholders from across Western North Carolina in the same room to envision opportunities and strategies for thriving outdoor communities,” said Building Outdoor Communities Specialist Bradley Spiegel.
Participants in the two-day launch included community leaders, regional councils of government, economic developers, tourism professionals, land managers, user groups, academics, planners, public health organizations and more, all working together to grow Western North Carolina’s outdoor economy.
“Counties and land managers like the U.S. Forest Service can proactively collaborate, strengthen relationships, and further discuss the importance, uniqueness and value of WNC counties and communities that are intertwined by the National Forest lands. I am very grateful to be at the table and I want to highlight there is plenty of room for others as this program progresses,” said Pisgah National Forest Appalachian District Ranger, Jennifer Barnhart.
Vital partners in this work are Appalachian State University’s Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, six regional councils of government, and West Virginia University’s Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. Teams will embark on a seven-month deep dive into data collection with community cohorts from September 2022 through August 2024 to strategically assess and prioritize outdoor infrastructure and economic development goals, forge pathways to implementation, and create an outdoor economic impact toolkit, so community leaders can be equipped with data to leverage future project investments.
“The presentations and site visits sparked some great discussions and ideas on how to grow the outdoor recreation economy in our region. The high level of energy in the room confirmed the value and timing of this work,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation North Carolina Development Director, George Ivey.
Communities that successfully participate will gain the crucial user data needed to advance their outdoor recreation planning goals and will be eligible for technical assistance funds through a matching grant program to advance their top priorities.
To stay in-the-know about program updates, key events, and major milestones, join the Building Outdoor Communities mailing list.