HOUGHTON – Visitors to Copper Country can testify to the natural beauty of the area and the many recreational opportunities the rugged terrain offers.
While the locals have a penchant for the Copper Country, the entire state of Michigan has world-class recreational areas – with 8 million acres of public land, 12,000 miles of hiking trails, and access to four of the Great Lakes.
With all of these resources, Michigan offers a wide variety of recreational activities including hiking, biking, camping, ORV driving, kayaking, foraging, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, and more.
In addition to entertainment, inspiration, and comfort for Michigan residents, outdoor recreation is also a major tourist draw and an important part of the state’s economy.
Michigan’s outdoor leisure industry generates $ 9.5 billion in economic impact, 108,673 jobs, and $ 4.6 billion in wages and salaries every year, according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Michigan ranks 6th among the U.S. for recreational vehicle use and 8th for hunting, shooting, and trapping. Michigan has the most ski resorts per state with New York and attracts more than 2 million skiers each winter.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced a slowdown in many industries, outdoor recreation flourished as people sought adventure and tranquility in Michigan’s wilderness.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, unprecedented numbers of people have ventured into nature in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), annual visits to Michigan State Parks rose from 28 million before the pandemic to an all-time high of 35 million in 2021.
In the summer of 2021 alone, visits to state parks increased by 25-30%, and the DNR recorded 1.4 million nights camping and overnight on public property during the year.
From 2019 to 2020, the sales of fishing licenses increased by 10%, while the sales of hunting licenses increased by 5%. The use of off-road vehicles increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020 and a further 13% in 2021.
This surge in public interest presents economic opportunities for the state’s tourism and leisure industries.
Even before the pandemic, Michigan was working to expand and develop outdoor recreational activities. In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer founded the Michigan Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry to help grow the state’s outdoor recreation economy.
This office is part of the DNR and works with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to support and grow existing outdoor businesses and attract new ones to the state.
The office is also working to raise awareness of outdoor leisure businesses, promote all kinds of outdoor activities, anticipate emerging leisure trends, and build support for natural resource management.
Under the direction of Director Brad Garmon, the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry spent its first two years meeting with hundreds of outdoor recreation companies across the state and devising an economic development program.
The office also promoted Michigan’s outdoor lifestyle and recreational offerings through the “Pure Michigan” Campaign and newer “Pure Chance” Marketing campaign for companies.
It is hoped that cultivating the industry will help create high-wage jobs, both in outdoor recreation and in the manufacture and manufacture of outdoor equipment and gadgets.
The office recently did the “2022 Northern Michigan Outdoor Recreation Pitch Competition”, an initiative that aims to identify and support outdoor businesses and entrepreneurs.
Outdoor leisure businesses with innovative and sustainable services or products are encouraged to apply by February 14th. The winners will be supported by the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry in the form of advisory services, trade fair participation and preparation as well as branding and content marketing support.
More information about the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry and other DNR programs can be found online at michigan.gov/dnr.
With snow continuing to fall in Copper Country, there are plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities in the New Year.
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