Legislature Approves Bill to Grow Outdoor Recreation

On Tuesday, the Washington State House of Representatives passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5843 that includes recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which Washington Bikes Executive Director Barb Chamberlain co-chaired.

For those of us who love to get out on rural roads, or meandering trails across Washington state, it’s clear how important outdoor recreation is to the way of life of many Washingtonians. The enjoyment bicycle riders get is only one component of outdoor recreation in our state. It’s a huge element of our economy, too.

Outdoor recreation on a bike.

Outdoor recreation on a bike.

A January study, Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State, commissioned by the recently completed Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation that was co-chaired by Washington Bikes Executive Director Barb Chamberlain, illustrates the significant economic impact of bicycling in Washington state.

Among the highlights:

  • Bicycle riding is #3 in recreational activities by total expenditures in Washington state with over $3.1 billion spent statewide.
  • Bicycle riding comes in as the fourth biggest recreational activity by measuring the total number of participant days occurring in Washington state.
  • As compared to many activities where equipment purchases provide the significant economic impact to their activity,  bicycle riders’ trip-related expenditures account for a whopping 96% of the economic impact of bicycling. This means that bicyclists like to contribute to local economies via shopping, lodgings, and eating. It underscores that bicyclists are “wallets on wheels.”
  • In total, Washington state residents and visitors  spend $21.6 billion per year on outdoor recreation trips and equipment, which translates to nearly 200,000 jobs in the state.

Not only does the economic analysis by Earth Economics of Tacoma show the benefits of bicycle riding, but it also underscores an important economic development dynamic for outdoor recreation in Washington state:

“These results show that outdoor recreation markets play an important role bridging urban and rural communities. The recreation market is unquestionably one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building sustainable jobs in rural Washington State”

So it’s fitting to see the state legislature recognize the huge impact of outdoor recreation by implementing some of the key recommendations of the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Task Force through the passage of ESSB 5843. Among two of the key components of the legislation are to:

  • establish an outdoor recreation sector lead in the Governor’s Office; and
  • to make important changes to the “No Child Left Inside” grant program to get our youth outdoors.

Creating a sector lead in the Governor’s office is especially valuable in Washington because the state as a whole lacks a state-driven tourism office. This lead can help cultivate and grow the vibrant outdoor recreation economy and by extension bicycle travel and tourism. We at Washington Bikes are happy to have helped get this important legislation to the Governor’s office for signature.

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