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Vt. Sees Nearly $1.7 Million In Outdoor Rec Grant Proposals (But Has Only $100K To Give)

Two people on mountain bikes riding on a path in a grassy field. There are mountains in the background.
Amy Kolb Noyes
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VPR FILE
Viv Buckley, left, and Des Hertz take mountain bikes for a ride on the Kingdom Trails in the NEK. The state of Vermont has a grant program to support outdoor recreation business opportunities, and it has received nearly $1.7 million in project proposals.

The state wants to grow Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy, and if the recent interest in a new grant program is any indication, municipalities across Vermont are ready to get on board.Last year the Scott administration put $100,000 into a new grant program that would help one or two communities build out their outdoor recreation business opportunities.

Towns and cities were asked to send in their plans, and according to Rebecca Washburn, director of lands administration and recreation with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the state received almost $1.7 million in project proposals.

“We were pleased to see the overwhelming support for this idea of connecting the outdoor recreation assets to ways to grow their local economy,” Washburn said.

Gov. Phil Scott established the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) in June 2017 to bring together the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to consider outdoor recreation businesses as a way to support development.

The initiative also seeks to bring together commercial businesses, nonprofit conservation groups and local trail and forest-use organizations to strengthen Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy.

"We have communities all over the state that have a variety of different challenges that they're trying to address. And recreation, it's part of the solution to some of these complex problems and communities are realizing that." — Rebecca Washburn, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation

Washburn said the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative is especially focused on small rural communities that have lost traditional businesses over the past few decades.

“We have communities all over the state that have a variety of different challenges that they’re trying to address," Washburn said. "And recreation, it's part of the solution to some of these complex problems and communities are realizing that.”

The Outdoor Recreation Friendly Community Grant Program asked municipalities to put together proposals that, for example, expand parking or help develop marketing that highlights the recreation businesses in a region.

Twenty-eight eligible proposals came in, according to Washburn, with every county in the state represented. She said there is money available for one or two projects.

The grants will be awarded this winter, and Washburn said she hopes whatever projects receive the funding can be replicated in other towns around the state.

“There’s a lot of interest,” Washburn said. “And our goal is to invest in one or more communities that at the end of their project really show us this is what it means to be an outdoor recreation friendly community.”

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