Constructing Outside Communities Program launches

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The WNC: MADE X MTNS partnership officially launched the Building Outdoor Communities Program (BOC) last week and welcomed over 100 participants for an introduction to its two-year outdoor community economic development initiative.

This place-based program focuses on capacity building, technical assistance, training, connectivity and education for communities looking to advance their goals in the outdoor economy.

“It was an incredible celebration to have a variety of stakeholders from across western North Carolina in the same room to envision opportunities and strategies for thriving outdoor communities,” said Bradley Spiegel, Building Outdoor Communities Specialist.

Attendees at the two-day launch included community leaders, regional government councilors, business developers, tourism professionals, land administrators, 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 US Forest Service can proactively work together, strengthen relationships, and further discuss the importance, uniqueness, and value of WNC counties and communities intertwined with National Forest lands. I am very grateful to be seated at this table and I want to emphasize that there is plenty of room for others throughout this program,” said Jennifer Barnhart, Pisgah National Forest Appalachian District ranger.

Key partners in this work are Appalachian State University’s Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, six regional government councils, and West Virginia University’s Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. Teams will engage in seven months of intensive data collection with community cohorts from September 2022 to August 2024 to strategically assess and prioritize outdoor infrastructure and economic development goals, forge pathways to implementation, and an economic impact toolkit to create outdoors, so the 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 the outdoor leisure economy can grow in our region. The high energy in the room validated the value and timing of this work,” said George Ivey, director of development for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation North Carolina.

Communities that successfully participate will receive the critical user data they need to drive their outdoor recreation planning goals and will be eligible for technical assistance funding through an appropriate grant program to drive their top priorities.

To keep up to date with program updates, major events and important milestones, join the Building Outdoor Communities mailing list.