By Misty Newman
Getting outdoors is not only great for your health, but also contributes significantly to the local and national economies.
Under the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (The REC Act), the outdoor recreation economy will be counted as part of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will measure the impact outdoor recreation has on the GDP and offer detailed government economic statistics not currently available.
However, the statistics currently available are eye-opening.
A report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) states outdoor recreation is a $646 billion industry, supports 6.1 million jobs and contributes $80 billion to local, state and federal tax revenue.
The results of the BEA study will be a critical resource for policymakers to better understand the economic impacts of outdoor recreation when making policy decisions. For example, supporters for trail maintenance will now have official federal data to back up their initiatives.
OIA also reports Arizona outdoor recreation generates $10.6 billion in consumer spending, 104,000 direct jobs, and $787 million in state and local tax revenue.
On a more local level, Maricopa has a mayor who is a strong proponent of outdoor recreation.
When Mayor Christian Price was HOA president of Maricopa Meadows, he implemented a disc golf course to best use the architecture. “You can get on a Frisbee golf course and play with your grandkids – that’s the beauty of it,” Price said.
For future recreation, Mayor Price calls partnerships with funding sources (from Washington and local resources) “vital.”
OIA member Jessica Wahl said a current program that provides funding is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which must be matched with state and local dollars.
There are times when funding from different sources is necessary. According to Price, Copper Sky was a much-needed facility and is a result of “the city backing up a bond with property taxes.”
A future project is the proposed Palo Verde Recreation Area. Pinal County is working with the Bureau of Land Management to secure this land for public recreation such as hiking and biking for an extended period of time. Without locking in a contract, it’s possible “BLM administration could turn on a dime, and say as of today you can no longer ride here,” Price said.
Having places for residents to enjoy the outdoors has social, economic and health benefits.
“The relationship between recreation and the community is understated,” Price said. “I think people that are healthy can spend more time with their family and friends. People that have healthy options such as parks want to work harder. Having these options leads to other things. They think, this is great; I’m out walking every day and now I feel better. Now I want to start eating better.”
As our city grows, Mayor Price anticipates “trail systems along the washes” and other projects being implemented to get our residents outdoors. Having outdoor recreation “reduces crime, raises home values and increases love of the community,” Mayor Price said.
Misty Newman is the owner of Maricopa Outdoor Adventures.
This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.