Outside recreation spending excessive in some states | Native Information


While the travel and tourism industry suffered a severe blow during the COVID-19 pandemic as more and more people chose to stay at home, outdoor recreation has remained a ray of hope.

Recent data from the Outdoor Industry Association showed total outdoor participation among Americans increased 2.4 percentage points from 2019 to 2020. Outdoor activities of all kinds have become a tempting alternative for people looking to get away from home while keeping the risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus relatively low.

Specifically, the data estimated that 8.1 million more hikers, 7.9 million new campers, and 3.4 million additional freshwater fishermen were taking advantage of the great outdoors during COVID-19. This trend could also reflect larger changes in people’s lifestyle preferences, as COVID-19 has inspired many workers to move out of dense urban areas to choose places with more outdoor space.

Interest in nature is good news for state and local governments that fund parks and recreational activities. These governments invest in recreational areas not only for the health and leisure of their residents, but also as a tool for economic development. Studies have estimated that the outdoor leisure industry is responsible for more than 7 million US jobs and nearly $ 900 billion in consumer spending annually, generating approximately $ 60 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments.

These factors can help parks perform better in government funding than they did after the Great Recession. After the last recession, state and local revenues across the country were decimated, and parks and recreational activities became targets of budget cuts in many countries. During that time, total state and local government spending on parks declined from an all-time high of $ 48.5 billion in 2009 to $ 39.9 billion in 2013 (in 2018-adjusted US dollars). Spending has since resumed an upward trend, but has still not returned to pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation.

Currently, total spending on parks and recreation is reported by states with larger populations and greater economic activity. California, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Texas are the largest donors, and also represent the five largest economies and five of the six largest populations. Spending per capita paints a different picture, with several Midwestern states, including Illinois, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all in the top 5 in the country. Mountain states like Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming also have the most per capita spending.

For many of these leading states, investing in parks and recreation is an important tool for generating economic activity. The development of parks and recreational areas around the state’s natural landscape is helping to bring visitors – and dollars – to these states.

Missouri ranks 26th in the middle with approximately $ 751 million in total government spending on parks and recreation annually. This year in St. Joseph, that means funding projects to improve areas such as the Missouri Theater and building a new bike path between Highland Avenue and the Sunbridge Hills Conservation Area.

“It’s going to be a very complex trail system that combines hiking, casual biking, and serious mountain biking,” said Parks Director Chuck Kempf in an earlier interview.

The hope is that new bike paths will lead to the addition of bikers, hikers and newbies to areas they may not have traveled to and bring new opportunities.

“I am confident that St. Joseph will attract many people and increase overall tourism,” said Kempf of the upcoming River Bluffs Bike Trail Park. “I think these avenues will spur some new business.”

To determine government spending on parks and recreational activities, CLIQ researchers analyzed data on state and local finances from the US Census Bureau and data on the outdoor leisure economy from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers divided the total spending on parks and recreation in each state by the state’s population to rank the states with the highest per capita spending. The research team also collected data on the economic impact of outdoor recreational activities, including the share of government GDP and the share of total government employment.

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