How growing Western recreation towns might hold onto their futures

rural montana community

Researchers look to give small tourism communities the tools for a GNARly approach.

Danya Rumore, a professor of planning at the University of Utah, could feel her hometown changing. Sandpoint, Idaho, on the edge of Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho, had always attracted visitors with its easy access to the Schweitzer ski area, but in the last decade, it had become much busier. As tourism grew, the town struggled to keep pace. It needed the visitors to keep the economy going, but the town’s infrastructure was being overwhelmed. When Rumore worked in communities like Springdale, Utah, right outside of Zion National Park, she noticed similar tensions, exacerbated by the uneven growth of the tourism economy. “They have big-city issues, but big-city solutions don’t work, or aren’t viable,” she said.

In 2017, Rumore began to study those places, which she calls GNAR — Gateway and Natural Resource Amenities — communities, to see if she could help them plan for growth and share insights. Rumore, who is also the director of the university’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Program, has a background is in conflict resolution, and she thought those towns might benefit from tools like mediation.

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