Indiana State University Newsroom

Rural Indiana communities helped by recreation professor, students

October 25, 2006

ISU to host training workshop for rural community leaders

U-pick farms, scenic byway tours and wineries could be the next big cash crop for small towns in Indiana.

To combat rural population decreases, local leaders should consider the potential economic impact and job creation of agritourism, according to an Indiana State University professor and recent ISU honors graduate.

"Well-developed agritourism systems in rural areas have the potential to reverse negative economic trends by bringing in visitors and creating new jobs and local business ventures for rural residents," Nathan Schaumleffel, assistant professor of recreation and sport management, and ISU graduate Melissa Ramsey wrote in an article in the fall 2006 issue of Indiana Business Review.

Schaumleffel and Ramsey co-authored the article, "Agritourism and Rural Economic Development," to help local leaders develop agritourism opportunities in Indiana, and introduce them to the Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project, recently established by Schaumleffel.

According to the 2000 census, 29.2 percent of Indiana's population lived in rural areas, which is a 5.9 percent decrease since 1990, Schaumleffel says. Indiana's metropolitan areas have increased in population, while Indiana's rural areas have not kept pace.

Agritourism has been described as a hybrid concept, that merges elements of two complex industries - agriculture and travel/tourism - to open up new profitable markets for farm products and services, and provide regional travel experiences.

Examples of this concept are agriculture festivals, roadside markets, camping and hiking destinations, and the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail.

The trail, which stretches about 110 miles from Monroe County all the way south to the Ohio River, is a good example of regionalization, the article says. Launched in mid-2004, it consists of seven Indiana wineries, which tourists can travel between, staying in bed and breakfasts, eating at local restaurants, and shopping along the way.

"Facilitating agritourism development throughout Indiana could potentially create jobs," Schaumleffel and Ramsey say. "It is plausible that if more jobs are created in rural communities then more families will remain in rural Indiana."

According to the article, Lt. Governor Becky Skillman stated that, "with 75 percent of Indiana counties designated as 'rural,' we must cater to the needs of these communities and offer any assistance possible to successful and sustainable rural Indiana communities."

Only 51 Convention and Visitors Bureaus exist within Indiana's 92 counties, potentially leaving 41 rural counties with no central agritourism development agency.

In these cases, Schaumleffel says, local leaders should look to municipal and county park boards to develop local tourism by initiating partnerships with other local, regional and state agencies.


Schaumleffel created the Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project (InRRDP) in 2005 to be a community outreach program that combines research, experiential learning and service to help rural leaders.

Clay City, dubbed the "Mayberry of the Midwest" with 1,019 residents, will follow Rockville as the next small town to benefit from the new program.

Through InRRDP, recreation and sport management students in Schaumleffel's Community Organizations and Leisure Services course this fall are developing a master plan for parks and recreation in Clay City-Harrison Township, in partnership with the non-profit organization the REIN Coalition, which stands for Recreation, Education, Information and Nutrition.

"A master plan typically costs $10,000 to $25,000 for a community to hire a consultant to complete," Schaumleffel says. "My students can co-produce a quality master plan with a town for nearly free."

The InRRDP had its first taste of success this summer, when Schaumleffel and his students wrapped up a year's worth of research and field work, which spanned several classes, for the Rockville Town Council and Rockville Park Board. The students conducted a Recreation and Leisure Needs Assessment for Teens of the community.

The results showed that Rockville teens wanted more recreational sport opportunities outside of competitive high school sports, particularly, they wanted soccer. The Rockville Park Board acted on the results of the needs assessment by purchasing and installing a soccer field and new safety fence at Beechwood Park this summer.

The InRRDP provides technical assistance and professional training to volunteers, community leaders, public officials and park board members in rural Indiana communities, Schaumleffel says.

"We are dedicated to helping communities help themselves," he said, "by providing resources so they can enhance community satisfaction and quality of life; increase participation in community life; develop leadership potential among residents; and satisfy their immediate unmet need for recreation programs in rural towns."


A free rural recreational development training workshop for community leaders is being held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 30, in Hulman Memorial Student Union, Room 407, on ISU?s campus. The event, presented by InRRDP, is for park and town board members, non-profit and faith-based leaders, and extension agents from communities of 7,000 residents or less.

Topics to be covered include: sustainable community recreation development, Indiana state laws for parks and recreation, master planning, playground safety, and funding opportunities.

In addition to Schaumleffel, speakers include: Brian Blackford of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Bob Bronson of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Kathleen Welssenberger of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and Greg Delp of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development.

The Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project is funded by a grant from The Alliance for Excellence Through Engagement & Experiential Learning, through a grant from the Lilly Endowment. For more information about the InRRDP or to register for the training workshop, contact Schaumleffel at (812) 237-2189.


Contact: Nathan Schaumleffel, assistant professor of recreation and sport management, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2189 or

Writer: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or

Story Highlights

Nathan Schaumleffel, assistant professor, created the Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project (InRRDP). Through InRRDP, his recreation and sport management students have helped the town of Rockville and are developing a master plan for Clay City. A training workshop for rural community leaders will be held Nov. 30.

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