That’s why we worked with the town of Grand Lake, Colorado. Grand Lake has all the rustic charm you would imagine a small mountain town to have, along with an overabundance of natural assets. The mighty Colorado Rockies tower over this compact, walkable town, which sits on the banks of Grand Lake—the state’s largest natural body of water—and at the headwaters of the Colorado River. The town’s neighbor to the north is the well-known Rocky Mountain National Park, and to the south is Arapahoe National Recreation Area.

The town took part in the Federal Lands Livability Initiative, a two-year project aimed at strengthening the livability of this community and capitalizing on its location as a gateway to world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, eventually transforming it into a vibrant year-round economy.

The project kicked off in 2013 with an assessment of the area’s key livability factors. In the assessment, the team found, among other things, that the peak summer and winter travel seasons offer a boost to the economy, but new initiatives are needed for economic stability year-round. Also, the majority of residents being second-home owners has been driving up home prices. There is a need for affordable housing for those who want to live and work in Grand Lake. The assessment also found that better coordination and communication was needed between the town and the federal agencies that manage the surrounding recreational lands. Flexibility, education and agency partnership are integral for communities to sustainably capitalize on public lands and transportation access for the benefit of their local economic resiliency and overall livability, and by participating in economic development planning, Federal land partners can better understand how they can support the economic health of a region. To see the full report developed by The Conservation Fund, click here.

In 2014, The Conservation Fund brought together a mixture of residents, business owners, town and county officials, as well as representatives from state and federal agencies for a workshop to raise awareness for the Livability Initiative and advance community goals through step-by-step plans for its implementation. Discussion focused on opportunities to create a year-round economy by expanding outdoor educational opportunities, building partnerships, increasing economic competitiveness and improving the region’s transportation infrastructure via trails, public transit, biking and walking, as well as road access and connections.

Why This Project Matters

Since the Livability Initiative launched, Grand Lake was named the number one Most Authentic Small Town in America, illustrating that when government officials, public land managers and community residents have the opportunity to talk about issues related to local land use, economic development and nature-based tourism, they can find a common way forward that fosters community development while also promoting public land and the outdoors.

Learn More

Federal Lands Livability Initiative
Sustainable Tourism & Livability Assessments