Ingrassia: States Make Funding in Outside Recreation – RVBusiness

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Phil Ingrassia

Editor’s Note: The following column by Phil Ingrassia, CAE, President of the RVDA, appears in the current issue of RV Executive magazine. it is reprinted with permission.

A report by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, released this month, confirms that outdoor recreation remains one of the country’s biggest industries, generating billions in consumer spending and millions of jobs.

Investing in outdoor recreation maximizes opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, including RV travelers, and provides economic, social and health benefits to both rural and urban communities.
While the Great American Outdoors Act has provided much-needed funds for state agencies for deferred maintenance, state governments have used a variety of mechanisms to fund outdoor recreation projects in recent years. These initiatives, coupled with federal spending, are helping states take advantage of this fast-growing segment of the economy.

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), which includes RVDA, RVIA, ARVC and other outdoor recreation business groups, has compiled some of the innovative government funding initiatives that support outdoor recreation. The list compiled by ORR’s Chris Perkins includes:

Georgia and Texas support their state and local parks with a sales tax on sporting goods. Georgia’s Outdoor Stewardship Act, passed in 2018, earmarks up to 80 percent of state sales tax revenue from purchases at outdoor recreation stores to fund land protection, trail improvement and restoration — the state’s premier source of targeted funding for these purposes. That year, 15 projects received a total of $28 million.

The Texas program dates back to 1993, although lawmakers acted in 2019 to permanently ensure that all sales tax revenue goes to parks and wildlife, nearly $100 million in fiscal 2021. Voters in both states voted the necessary one Constitutional amendments by a large margin to .

Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund relies on royalties from the sale and lease of state oil, gas and mineral rights. Since its inception in 1976, the oil and gas industry has contributed more than $1.1 billion to state and local parks, waterways, trails and wildlife sanctuaries.

Utah charges a 0.32 percent state temporary stay room tax on tourist lodging, hotel, motel, or trailer home transactions that are regularly rented for fewer than 30 consecutive days. Proceeds go to the Outdoor Recreation Grant Fund. In 2022, lawmakers added an additional $5 million to the fund, contributing to the largest funding cycle to date – $11 million for 85 projects building or restoring outdoor recreational infrastructure.

New Mexico legislators established the Outdoor Recreation Division and an associated Outdoor Equity Fund to provide outdoor experiences to low-income youth. In 2022, 48 organizations received grants totaling nearly $800,000; Half of these support tribal, rural and land grant communities. Funding comes from both the state and private sponsors. Colorado has a similar program.

Colorado uses lottery proceeds to support outdoor recreation. Since 1992, Great Outdoors Colorado has invested more than $1.3 billion in lottery proceeds to fund 5,500 projects in all 64 counties in the state. Lawmakers also approved an optional “Keep Colorado Wild Pass” in 2021 that residents can purchase when registering a vehicle for $29. Money raised protects wildlife habitats, search and rescue programs, avalanche awareness and more.

State parks and other recreational areas play an important role in providing RV travelers with places to hang out…and play…in the great outdoors. ORR will continue to share these and other government funding success stories to support the booming interest in outdoor recreation.