The GNAR Initiative

Small cities and towns outside of significant natural amenities such as national parks, public lands, ski areas, and scenic rivers throughout the western United States are becoming increasingly popular places to visit and live. As a result, many of these gateway and natural amenity region (GNAR) communities—such as Jackson, WY, and Moab, UT—are grappling with a variety of “big city” issues, including severe congestion, lack of affordable workforce housing, and concerns about sprawl. Other GNAR communities are just beginning to, or may soon, experience significant growth and tourism pressures. Some GNAR communities welcome this development, whereas others would prefer to remain “undiscovered.” Regardless of their perspectives on development and where they are on the development trajectory, effective and proactive planning is critical for helping GNAR communities preserve and enhance the qualities that make them such desirable places to live and visit.

The GNAR Initiative at the University of Utah helps western GNAR communities preserve the qualities that make them special and thrive amid change. It does so through:

  • Research: The interconnected planning, transportation, economic, community development, and sustainability issues in GNAR communities are not well studied or understood. The GNAR Initiative acts as an intellectual incubator to foster and support multi-university and trans-disciplinary research aimed at better documenting and holistically understanding the opportunities and challenges in GNAR communities. It also develops, supports, and studies evidence-based strategies for helping western GNAR communities thrive amid change. Learn more about our research projects and findings.

  • Education: The GNAR Initiative trains graduate and undergraduate students to understand and work in the unique contexts of GNAR communities. It also engages students in studying and assisting GNAR communities and the regions around them. It does so through a range of trans-disciplinary academic and applied educational opportunities, including multi-disciplinary workshop courses and community-engaged research projects. The Initiative also supports continued education courses and other efforts aimed at building awareness and understanding of the unique experiences and concerns of western GNAR communities. To learn more about our educational efforts, see our education page.

  • Capacity building: Planners, public officials, consultants, and others working with western GNAR communities are seeking tools, information, resources, and other forms of support to assist these places in addressing the interconnected challenges they face. The Initiative provides a range of capacity building and planning support for GNAR communities and the people working in and around them. This includes an online toolkit for GNAR communities, as well as professional trainings, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and presentations at professional meetings. Check out our capacity building page for more information.