Residents gather for a workshop June 9 with the goal of expanding a recreation economy in Plumas County. Photo by Lisa Kelly

Planning underway for a recreation economy in Plumas County

By Lisa Kelly, PhD

Special to Plumas News

 

Thanks to a Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) program assistance application submitted in 2019 by Greg Williams, Executive Director of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, Quincy was selected to be the first community to have a “live” planning session in round 2 of RERC grant.

The RERC Workshop commenced with roughly 80 community members attending an evening meeting on Wednesday, June 8 at the West End Theatre and a day-long workshop on the 9th at the Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds.  There is a third virtual meeting scheduled on June 27.  RERC is a joint project of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USDA Forest Service (FS), and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) with participation from other federal, State, regional and local agencies and organizations, local businesses and community members.

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It is no surprise that Quincy was identified for the RERC program, given our location in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range as well as our proximity to larger metropolitan areas from which to draw visitors, including the Bay Area, Sacramento and Reno. This pool of visitors is referred to as a “driveshed.”

RERC workshop facilitators were quick to point out that we have the infrastructure, human and natural resources to create a viable recreation economy and stated that we have more resources than many of the other communities selected to be a part of this planning assistance program.

In attendance at all sessions was Clint Koble of the Sierra Small Business Development Center, “For the past two days, I attended a conference in Quincy sponsored by a group advocating Recreation Economies for Rural Communities.  It by far, was one of the better conferences or meetings that I have attended in years…I have never attended ANY meeting in Plumas County that had so many positive and determined people to embrace the concept of enhancing  recreation economies.  More than that however, was the appetite for change.  If I had to describe the group, I would have said “They are like a rocket, ready to take off for Space!”

The Intent of the RERC program is to capture our community’s vision and values, andassess current cultural, structural, and economic resources we have, as well as areas that can be strengthened or improved.  Next is to identify needed partnerships and the coordination of these entities, culminating with an outcome of identifying projects, priorities, actions, roles and responsibilities necessary to move forward.

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Why Recreation?

Growing the outdoor recreation sector can be a large part of a region’s diversified economic development strategy and Plumas County is abundant in recreational resources. In addition, research has proven, and many of our citizens will attest to the fact, that outdoor recreation increases the overall quality of life for residents, which in turn boosts the regional economy as a whole. In Plumas County, the recreation sector can be a strong economic contributor and can have mutually supportive relationships with other priority industries including hospitality, agriculture, building and construction and technology. Interestingly enough, these sectors have already been identified as priority industry sectors for the North State by the California Department of Education and Chancellor’s Office. A recreation economy will also create opportunities for local residents and businesses by leveraging and maintaining natural and manufactured assets, increasing tourism and supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in the recreation and related sectors.

The data supports this endeavor

The purpose of the RERC program is to partner with communities to revitalize main streets through outdoor recreation; strengthen economic opportunities for residents and businesses; enhance equitable access to the outdoors as a key part of the sustainable use of natural resources.  Expected results are actually quite concrete and include “the establishment of new connections among people to build capacity for success; collaboratively design implementable action plans with clear goals and strategies for achieving communities’ desired outcomes.”

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Work was done in advance of the RERC Team’s visit, whereby specific Plumas County goals were established with the help of a local steering committee. The goals were shared with the larger group to establish a consensus on the direction of future work.

Future work will focus on the following 

While Wednesday’s session was more of an introduction of the RERC intent and purpose, Thursday’s day-long session was truly a “workshop” with group breakouts and intense discussions of strategies and the creation of  action plans addressing the five goals.  There was a lively exchange of what seems to be a common lament: the HOUSING shortage and resultant labor shortage due to…you guessed it – a lack of housing.

According to Megan Mansfield, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Programs Coordinator and RERC Steering Committee member:  “Equity, access, and responsible growth are key elements to the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities project.” “The two day workshop afforded us (Quincy and beyond) an opportunity to put some hard work into community planning. This coming off of almost 2 years of pandemic. The energy was high and people are ready for the next steps. The RERC planning workshop will hopefully make our community more competitive to receive implementation funding for our collective goals.”

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Though the housing situation was consistently a source of concern for future development, opportunities were brought forward for enriching our vision of a recreation economy including:

  • Enhancing our “Business District”
  • Forming a Visitors Center presence
  • Expanding transportation services
  • Boyles Ravine Trailhead
  • Public Bathrooms
  • Event Centers such as the empty lot on Main and Coburn Way
  • Trail Information and Marking
  • Trail Hubs in Quincy and E. Quincy to function as “landing pads” with bathrooms, animal parks, parking and kiosks
  • Establishing four seasons of recreation

Workgroups addressed our service/asset gaps including:

  • Access to recreational “gear” including rental and repair
  • Hiker (recreation) Lodging
  • Transportation or shuttles to and from trails
  • Visitor Center and kiosks to communicate our assets
  • The chasm between “East” and “West” Quincy as well as the identification of “Main Street” whereby the current definition omits some very vital and vibrant businesses
  • Public Bathrooms
  • Housing
  • Lack of Diversity of businesses
  • Broadband

Specific Actions were discussed including:

  • Using FRC dorms as a hostel
  • Wayfinding, kiosks and Gateway Entrance Improvements
  • Identify sites for public bathrooms, permit and build them
  • Potentially working with the county to fund businesses to create public restrooms whereby current regulations prohibit this type of construction
  • Public Policy for the development and construction of family and multi-family housing
  • Messaging to diverse visitors and groups – inclusion
  • Increased and enhanced stewardship
  • Coordinated Marketing

The day concluded with the sharing out of an “Action Planning Table” whereby key steps were identified, resources and people needed to implement the action and a suggested time frame.

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RERC workshop facilitators collected the charts, graphs, maps, and tables and at the June 27 session we’ll continue the action planning work, with the draft plan to be shared after that. So, while there was a great deal of work done on the 7th and 8th, it is just the beginning!  But, we know this effort has the potential to do great things for the Plumas County economy.  As evidence of the efficacy of the RERC program, attestations and success stories were shared from other communities that have undergone the program including Thompson Falls, Montana, Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Jasper, Alabama to name just a few.

While this work is daunting and not without some sort of local precedent, the group left the fairgrounds optimistic and energized. “RERC provided a great forum for our community to address the major hurdles facing Quincy and ways to overcome them through actionable steps”, states Matthew Kitchens, steering committee member and business owner.  “The RERC committee reinforced that it is up to us when it comes to embracing a healthy growth model for our town. Accomplishing this task is doable with cooperation and county by in. The overwhelming needs of housing and public ADA restrooms on Main Street garnered tremendous attention.”

Many thanks go out to all the local and regional individuals, businesses and organizations that attended and remain committed to continuing the good work; the steering committee:

 

  • Tracey Ferguson, Planning Director, Plumas County
  • Rob Gott, Business Owner, Gott Powersports
  • Matthew Kitchens, Business Owner, The Toy Store
  • Karen Kleven, Chair, Board of Directors, Feather River Tourism Association
  • Cheryl Kolb, Administrative Director, Quincy Chamber of Commerce
  • John Kolb, Chair, Board of Directors, Plumas Corporation
  • Nick Maffei, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Outreach, Feather River College
  • Kara Rockett-Arsenault, Executive Director, Plumas Arts
  • Trinity Stirling, Connected Communities Program Manager, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
  • Greg Williams, Executive Director, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
  • Megan Mansfield, Stewardship Programs Coordinator, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
  • Nova Collinson, Human Resources Director Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
  • Alex Terry, Youth Program Coordinator, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship

Thanks to our Sponsors: Plumas Bank, State Farm, Flannigan & Leavitt, the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, and the Feather River Food Co-op.

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For more  information:

Local Point of Contact

Megan Mansfield, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, [email protected], 408-636-6754

EPA Point of Contact

Stephanie Bertaina, U.S. EPA Office of Community Revitalization, [email protected], 202-566-0157

Facilitation Team

Megan McConville, Senior Planner, EPR PC, [email protected], 919-208-1210

Gerry James, Founder, The Explore Kentucky Initiative and Together Outdoors Coalition Lead, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, [email protected], 270-766-3822

Amanda Poncy, Senior Planner, EPR PC, [email protected], 434-202-5082

 

Quincy resident Chuck Leonhardt adds his ideas to a board during a June 9 workshop in Quincy. Photo by Lisa Kelly
From left Matt Kitchens, Stephanie Tanaka, and Riccardo Jacobus review a map of Quincy and discuss ways to make its streets recreation friendly. Photo by Lisa Kelly