As they become popular places to live and visit, GNAR communities tend to experience a variety of interconnected planning, transportation, economic, community development, and sustainability issues. These challenges range from shortages of affordable workforce housing and significant congestion and transportation concerns to questions about how to protect open spaces and dark skies. GNAR communities that have not yet “been discovered” often face a variety of other concerns, such as issues associated with limited economic opportunities. 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, helps implement, and studies evidence-based strategies for helping western GNAR communities thrive amid change.

Active GNAR Research Projects

Planning and Development Challenges in Western Gateway Communities

Small towns and cities outside scenic public lands, national parks, and other natural amenities in the western United States have become popular places to live and visit. While this has created many opportunities for these “gateway communities,” it has also been the source of many challenges.To better understand these challenges and the experience of gateway communities across the west, researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Arizona conducted an assessment of planning and development challenges in western gateway communities in 2018. The study, which was funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, involved in-depth interviews with 33 public officials and a survey of more than 300 public officials in western gateway communities. Key results were published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Economics of Dark Skies:

Funded through the National Park Service and the Public Lands Initiative, this project focuses on measuring the increasing economic value of dark sky tourism, how dark skies impact visitor experiences and how they contribute to a community's character.


Additional Research Resources:

Coming Soon


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