May 31, 2023

SAVE-THE-DATE! This national course offering is an opportunity for gateway communities from around the country to participate in 2 webinars and a 3-day in-person workshop to catalyze collaborative action, cultivate local leadership and advance solutions.

During the course, community-based teams will identify opportunities to build healthier communities based upon their unique assets and hear about the latest trends in resilient natural and cultural resources, diverse recreation assets, accessibility as a foundation, and revitalized main streets and downtowns. Teams will develop specific action plans for implementation when they return home!


By participating teams will better understand how to:

  • Leverage natural & cultural assets;
  • Revitalize downtowns;
  • Promote arts & culture opportunities;
  • Build natural resource & outdoor recreation experiences;
  • Share authentic community identity;
  • Foster lasting economic opportunity; and
  • Build leaders & partnerships.


In addition to hearing from both national and regional experts, a main feature of the course is the action-planning element, which guides each team through asset identification, visioning, identification of potential projects, and action planning around a selected project. As teams learn about emerging trends, have discussions with teams from across the nation, focus on core features of healthy gateway communities, and engage around relevant case studies, they emerge equipped to drive collaborative action forward in their gateway community.

The in-person workshop will be held at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), located at 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown, WV 25443. It will begin at 8:00 am on Wednesday, May 31st and run through 2:00 pm on Friday, June 2nd. For more information about NCTC, go to and


Team Registration Fee: $850/team
Lodging & Meals: $172/person/night for single occupancy ($123/person/night for double occupancy)

  • Plan to arrive Tuesday evening, for 3-4 nights
  • Lodging & Meal package includes 3 meals/day and private hotel room
  • Detailed hotel info will be provided to accepted teams
  • Limited lodging assistance is available; requests should be indicated on team application


Teams from a gateway community – defined as a community that borders or is near publicly owned lands such as national and state parks and forests – are eligible to participate. The geographic scale of ‘community’ can vary – from a multi-county region to a single town. Just as each team’s geography is unique, so is their figurative starting place. While some teams have been working together for years and come to the training ready to hit the ground running on a specific project, others may be gathering for the first time. The action-planning process threading through the course is designed to work with teams regardless of the specific starting point and advance their ability to successfully collaborate and implement action around the challenges and opportunities facing gateway communities.

“In a week’s time, our area made 2-3 years progress! The Balancing Nature and Commerce course moved the working relationships, partnerships, and common goals forward by giant leaps!"

—Chip Jenkins, Superintendent, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Participants will attend as a team of 4-7 community members comprised of public land managers, elected officials, civic leaders, local business representatives/tourism councils, recreation interests, arts representatives, and others in public service roles. The team make-up should reflect a cross-section of the community and unique character of the community.

At a minimum, each team should have a community leader (elected or acknowledged) and a public land manager (representative from neighboring public land – park, forest, other).  All team members are expected to attend the entire in-person workshop as well as pre-/post-workshop webinars.


n Informational Webinar took place on Wednesday, March 1st from 3:00 – 4:00 pm Eastern Tim


Presentation materials from the webinar can be downloaded here.

Attendance by at least one team member is strongly encouraged at this webinar, where program highlights and application information will be discussed and questions from attendees addressed. A confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting will be sent after registration. Attendance is recommended, but not required.

EXPRESS INTEREST:  Submit a Letter of Interest no later than 9:00 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, March 15th.


This is an opportunity for interested teams to provide information for the team including: community location, neighboring public land, potential team participants, brief description of issues, topics of interest, and any previous interaction with The Conservation Fund / Balancing Nature and Commerce program. Note: Teams that submit a letter of interest form will get preference in the final selection process.

APPLY:  Submit your Team Application no later than 9:00 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 5th.


The program registration fee is $850 per team. Assistance with forming a team and filling out the application is available! For assistance and/or questions at any step in the process, please contact Susan Elks (610-563-1516 |



      • Wednesday, March 1st at 3 pm ET
        Informational webinar (recommended, not required)
      • Wednesday, March 15th by 9 pm ET
        Deadline to submit letter of interest (recommended, not required)
      • Wednesday, April 5th by 9 pm ET
        Deadline to submit team application
      • Week of April 17th
        Notification of team acceptance
      • Monday, May 8th
        Deadline for team registration fee ($850) & team member (re-) confirmation
      • Week of May 1st (date TBD)
        Pre-workshop webinar
      • Wednesday, May 31st
        Day 1 of in-person workshop
      • June/July (date TBD)
        Post-workshop webinar


For additional information about the 2023 Balancing Nature and Commerce Course please contact Susan Elks (610-563-1516 |