With National Parks receiving more visitors in 2015 than all of Disney, national football, national baseball, national basketball, soccer and NASCAR combined, county officials discussed the important role outdoor recreation can have in creating stronger economies at the NACo Annual Conference.
Mauricia Baca, executive director of Get Outdoors Nevada, explained how connecting people to the outdoors builds stronger communities and stronger economies.
“My basic thesis is that the idea is that Nevada’s outdoors, really anybody’s outdoors, equals both a stronger community and a stronger economy because they go hand in glove,” she said.
In order to create stronger economies through the outdoors, Baca explained the role of education in teaching children by using “outdoor classroom spaces” to improve STEM outcomes.
To illustrate how outdoor recreation can create a stronger economy, Baca explained that the total economic outputs that surround Lake Mead generated $397 million in 2018.
Eric Peterson, public affairs director for Coconino County, Ariz., referred to a study on the extension of the North Rim season at Grand Canyon National Park. Peterson described the North Rim as a “rustic, resort tourism” area that operates in the summer by set dates determined by the park’s services.
“This was the classic case of deferred maintenance of infrastructure. It has pushed the North Rim into a summer season only because pipes aren’t going to be buried deep enough for water to be able to move and not freeze [and] cabins aren’t outfitted for a winter climate,” he said. “We have this incredible place on the north side of the canyon that is not operational [for half the year].”
The study looked at the economic benefits of the area and had the North Rim open two weeks earlier and close two weeks later. The study found 37,000 more visitors in the extra four weeks, generating $230,000 per day.
“Those are the kind of data studies that we need every day to prove the value of the land that we are helping to manage and helping to engage with a tourism economy,” Peterson said.
Dirk Van Duym, a research economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, elaborated on statistics, adding that the bureau has been working to compare the economic impact of the outdoor recreation sector with other sectors in the economy.
The Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 provided funding for the bureau to take a closer look at the economic outdoor sector. The goal of the project is to deepen the public’s understanding of the outdoor recreation sector’s impact.
“It allows the economic activity associated with outdoor recreation to be separately identified and measured in greater detail,” he said.
According to Duym, on the national level, 2.2 percent of the entire economy is outdoor recreation related and there are over 4.5 million jobs at the national level in the outdoor recreation sector.
Duym said he is using data from a number of different sources to create statistics that will be divided into different outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and hiking among others.
“There’s a wealth of information to show you how much your state is contributing in terms of the outdoor recreation sector,” he said.