Published: 12/23/2022 13:04:26
Modified: 12/23/2022 1:01:42 PM
With tourism and recreation driving a significant portion of Franklin County’s economy, local legislators and advocacy groups are celebrating the establishment of the Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation, tasked with expanding the state’s recreational opportunities.
The Office of Outdoor Recreation operates within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and will focus on coordinating outdoor recreation policy, identifying funding opportunities for programs, improving public access, supporting the recreation economy, and promoting Massachusetts as a great Work in or focus on enjoying the outdoors. The office will work with the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, among others.
The bureau’s establishment, spearheaded by former Senator Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, was lauded by local officials because it signaled a government investment in western Massachusetts’ natural resources.
“The outdoor recreation economy is an increasingly large industry, and western Massachusetts is well positioned to capitalize on it,” Hinds said in a statement. “We have the natural resources and are easily accessible from major population centers. I hope this office will drive growth for this sector and for jobs in western Massachusetts.”
With the establishment of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Massachusetts joins 17 other states across the country that have similar offices.
Tourism, including outdoor recreation, is a major driver of Franklin County’s economy. According to a report by the State Office of Travel and Tourism, tourists spent $67.5 million in 2019. Tourism numbers were reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Franklin County Chamber of Commerce executive director Jessye Deane said in a statement that an outdoor recreation bureau will help build a “critical industry” for the area.
“We know that outdoor recreation creates healthier communities and healthier economies,” said Deane. “Massachusett’s outdoor recreation economy generates millions in consumer spending each year, which is especially important to our rural communities.”
Outdoor recreation alone added $9.5 billion to the state’s economy, according to a 2021 report by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. The outdoor recreation economy grew 24% from 2020-2021 as people sought outdoor recreation during the pandemic. Popular activities include boating, fishing, hunting, RV driving, and camping.
“We are fortunate to have such a diverse range of leisure activities in the Commonwealth,” State MP Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, said in a statement. “Our natural resources attract visitors and provide our citizens with places they can use to exercise, relax or recharge.”