Key themes

We interviewed 30 stakeholders about outdoor recreation and community development in California. These are the key themes from our paper and a sample of what the interviewees told us. Download the full report below to read more.

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Capacity Challenges

"Most of these rural jurisdictions, their planning department is two people. They don't have the staff with the expertise, they don't have a separate recreation planner, which is difficult . . . . The town of Mammoth Lakes hired a trails coordinator for the town, which is huge.”

 Manager in a business group


Community Culture

"There are  a lot of communities, especially small rural communities are like, ‘it's going to be the same as it ever was.’ Somebody comes up [with] an idea and everybody shoots it down....To the other opposite end of the spectrum of where somebody comes with an idea, and they're like, ‘Yeah how can we help make that person successful, and rally behind it?’"

Executive of a business group

Creative Catalysts

"Somebody in the community who's a leader and is either savvy enough and charismatic enough to encourage the rest of the people in their community, comes up with an idea. They advance that idea, and it leads to some sort of strategy. They drag everyone along, kicking and screaming at first, and then they love it.

 Executive in a regional group 

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Tailored Solutions

“In our experience, I think it's very rare that an outside entity steps in, sees an opportunity, and gets the locals excited about it. I think it's usually something that starts at the grassroots level where it's the people who believe they would benefit from the project if it were completed or benefit from the change if it were made."

 Manager in a technical assistance group

Identity and Pride

"[Rural towns] built on extraction to support communities far away....Those communities [have]  proven to be pretty resilient in just surviving. I wouldn't say many of them have thrived, but they are resilient. And interestingly enough, there's a tremendous amount of local pride at the micro level, at the community level, in that resilience.”


Executive in a state agency

Visions for the future

“[What] we want to do is create a greater community vision for where they want to be in the future with regard to their outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands...we want communities to become more organized and work together and then bring prioritized projects to [our agency], under partnership agreements and [with a] plan of attack.”


Manager in a federal agency

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Economic Diversity

“We're more heavily dependent on tourism now than we used to be and when you add in inflation our regional economy has actually declined...we are not a thriving regional economy by any stretch of [our organization’s] role as basically the region's economic development organization is to find opportunities to reverse that trend”


Executive, regional organization

Unique Assets

“I see [development of recreation amenities as] a quality of life factor for people that are living here and existing . . . . [These assets] can bring value [that influences people] to stay in the area, spend their money, spend their time, and then just really complement that legacy of natural appreciation of natural resources and public lands and use of that.”


Manager in a conservation group

Planning for Impacts

“[At] what point do people start loving [our region] to death? A lot of people think [and] say that we have too many tourists and visitors in town, but I think we just do a really poor job at managing the ones we have, and if we had better management strategies and better infrastructure, I think the issues and the pressure points...would be alleviated.”


Manager in a regional group

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Ecosystem Services

“[Look] at the contributions that agriculture, outdoor recreation, and other benefits [are] provided by natural and working landscapes, I mean, everything from groundwater recharge to carbon sequestration...ecosystem services [are] a framework for communicating the need to value what natural and working lands provide.”

Manager in a conservation group