Schumer proposes millions in outdoor recreation spending

LOWVILLE — If the Rural Outdoor Investment Act makes its way through Congress and into law, the $50 million it will provide annually to further outdoor recreation in areas like the North Country may be just the beginning.

The act, which was introduced by Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, and Michael F. Bennet, D-Colo., on Feb. 3, will provide $50 million annually to help grow the outdoor recreation economy in rural areas of the country — $37.5 million through the Economic Development Administration and $12.5 million via the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program.

Sen. Schumer said in a news release that the recreation industry adds more than $21 billion to the state’s economy, including about $15.9 billion in wages. He added that in 2020, 241,000 jobs directly related to outdoor recreation were created in New York.

“From the trails of the Adirondack Mountains to waters of the Finger Lakes, outdoor recreation is the lifeblood of so many of Upstate New York’s communities, especially our rural areas. Since the start of the pandemic, people’s passion for the outdoors has only grown, but investment for this vital economic engine has remained trapped inside,” Schumer said. “This bill will jump-start economic recovery from the pandemic for some of our most underserved areas, create good-paying jobs, and give a breath of fresh air to our main streets across New York.”

The act will authorize funding for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program, which initially ran on a trial basis in 2019.

Allison D. Biasotti, spokesperson for Sen. Schumer’s office, said the U.S. Farm Bill will be the vehicle through which additional funding for that program will be sought after it gets established.

“We should note that we believe USDA Rural Development will be a better fit for the program than (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency),” Biasotti said, noting that the agency will still partner in the program that provides grant opportunities for rural communities to develop or expand trail networks, foster environmentally friendly community development, revitalize main streets as a gateway to outdoor recreation and to build agreement between community members about how to manage outdoor assets and make sure they are sustainable for future generations.

The Rural Outdoor Investment Act targets $30 million for recreational infrastructure from ramps and signs to creating new trails; $5 million for grants that will help communities plan their recreation economy opportunities including marketing, branding, business development, fundraising, training and tourism management; and $2.5 million to promote partnerships with universities for education, technical assistance and research to help grow the outdoor recreation sector.

This bill follows Sen. Schumer’s “set-aside” $750 million from the $3 billion American Rescue Plan to support outdoor recreation, tourism and travel of which New York has been awarded about $45 million, according to the news release.

The goal is to have the Rural Outdoor Investment Act be included in the Economic Development Act reauthorization with bipartisan support.

“Rural recreation communities across the country are in both blue and red states,” Biasotti said. “We believe that both sides of the aisle will see the value in supporting and growing our rural recreation communities.”

Funds through this act can be used to support any form of outdoor recreation including both motorized and nonmotorized activities.

The act is in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.


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