For nearly a decade, we’ve been able to quantify outdoor recreational activities as a major economic force in America, with an output of $ 788 billion, 5.2 million jobs, and 2.1 percent of GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis .

These astounding numbers were calculated before the rise in outdoor recreational participation during the Covid-19 pandemic, which spurred camping, fishing and vehicle sales, but also underscored the need for further investment in our outdoor infrastructure to match our already strong participation to become and continue to support access for communities with limited recreational opportunities and green spaces.

While the surge in recovery helped support local businesses across the country, others, particularly in rural America, have been hit hard by pandemic closings and the shortage of tourists making their way to these gateway communities.

This is why we are so excited about recent efforts to expand outdoor recreation in Arkansas.

The Board of Directors of the Outdoor Recreation Round Table met with Governor Asa Hutchinson, who recently signed an executive order to create an outdoor recreational office, making Arkansas the 18th state to establish such an office or task force. In the session, the governor discussed how this new office can strengthen coordination and investment in the powerful economic engine, the outdoor leisure industry in The Natural State.

This will help take the outdoor recreation economy to new heights in our state, where it already generates $ 2.1 billion in economic output, supports 40,000 jobs, and accounts for 2.2 percent of the state’s economy. The Office of Outdoor Recreation will establish Arkansas as a leader in the outdoors – from hunting and fishing to quad biking, biking, and more – and set an example for other states to expand investment in the outdoor recreation industry.

As a result of these investments, the outdoor recreation industry is poised to grow even more in the state, building healthy communities, supporting jobs and economies, and connecting all Arkans and Americans to the mental and physical health benefits of nature.

These efforts, combined with others taking place across the country, show the growing recognition of outdoor recreation as an integral part of the national economy at all levels.

The entire outdoor recreation industry stands ready to work in partnership with the governor and his dedicated team to grow this important business sector and ensure that all Americans have access to outdoor recreational activities on Arkansas public land and waters for generations to come.

John Paul Shaffer is the Bentonville-based Northwest Arkansas Bike Business Innovation Director at PeopleForBikes and a lifelong lover of the great outdoors. Joel Hodgdon is the Marketing Director of Big Green, Remington’s historic ammunition factory in Lonoke.