The GNAR Initiative: Empowering gateway communities through collaboration
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Gateway communities throughout the intermountain west are an important part of the tourism experience. They are often the doorstep to the national parks and public lands that draw millions of international and domestic visitors each year. Along with many benefits, tourism brings unique challenges to these communities, and they face them with limited staff, resources, and time. This chapter explains the recent development of the Gateway and Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative and its current efforts to assist gateway communities in the intermountain west region of the United States. The GNAR Initiative is a Cooperative Extension program of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University. The Initiative is a hub for gateway community stakeholders to identify shared needs, and cooperatively develop, share, and access resources. The initiative utilizes the infrastructure and mission of the university land grant extension system to operationalize its own, similarly aligned three-part mission: multidisciplinary, trans-boundary research, community and student education, and community capacity building. An overview of the GNAR Initiative’s development is provided as a possible model for similar efforts in other regions. The GNAR Initiative’s internal structure and development path focused on using a collaborative, grass-roots effort to build peer-to-peer networks that link GNAR communities to GNAR communities, and GNAR communities to research and resources in an arena that continues to rapidly evolve. The Initiative’s efforts to include a diverse stakeholder group to guide its efforts resulted in the initiative being equipped to quickly respond to the evolving issues in gateway communities during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.