Think Local: A New Play for Utah
In addition to its “Mighty 5” national parks, the state is looking to its lesser-known, local and hyper-local recreation opportunities to attract outdoorists. A $1 million grant program is making it easy.
In a few short weeks the outdoor industry will once again make its twice-annual pilgrimage to Utah for the Outdoor Retailer show. We go to do business, of course, but also hopefully to share time outdoors with colleagues, friends and potential customers. Mountains, rivers and trails in Utah and across the country serve as a sort of natural lab and offer a chance to connect with the very thing that motivated many of us to get into this industry in the first place: the outdoors.
In Utah—as in so many places around the country—there is a growing focus on connecting people with outdoor experiences, especially beyond the “Mighty 5” national parks. Business leaders, policymakers and communities across the state saw a gap between the state’s most famous places and the sort of economic and health benefits that could be derived from the lesser-known, close-to-home recreational opportunities.
Enter the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant Program. Building on a successful pilot last year, this new program will give $1 million to community-supported projects that build new outdoor recreation infrastructure across the state. This can include things such as new waterway put-ins waterways, access improvements and a multitude of trails projects. Ten percent of the funds will also go to support youth outdoor programming. Due to a matching requirement, funds granted by the state will be doubled through other sources—federal Land & Water Conservation Fund dollars, local recreation funding and private philanthropic donations for example. This could also include grant matching by outdoor companies to local outdoor groups.
Outdoor Industry Association, its Utah-based members and a broad group of partners worked hard to get this legislation passed, and our efforts will continue in the coming year. We are interested in working in states across the nation to grow or strengthen similar programs, and we want to hear from you about the opportunities in your area.
The grant application cycle is open now, and runs through August 11th. Details on funded projects and application requirements can be found here.