Outdoor recreation to be counted in US GDP

In a major win at the federal level, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Pres. Obama. As a result, for the first time ever the outdoor economy will be measured and reported in the nation’s economic report card the same way economists report on aerospace, IT, or agriculture.

Rep. Rick Larsen making use of Washington's outdoor recreation assets, on a ride with Snohomish and Skagit County bike advocates.

Rep. Rick Larsen making use of Washington’s outdoor recreation assets, on a ride with Snohomish and Skagit County bike advocates.

Our thanks to members of Washington’s congressional delegation: Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and Members of Congress Suzan delBene (a co-sponsor of the bill), Rick Larsen, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (co-sponsor), Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert (co-sponsor),  Adam Smith, Denny Heck.

Momentum continues to build for recognition and investment in the outdoor economy. The 2015 economic impact analysis of outdoor recreation in Washington state highlighted this sector’s $22 billion annual contribution to the state’s economy. Bicycling provides ~$3.2 billion in direct expenditure; as the third most popular outdoor activity in the state, biking represents a cornerstone of the outdoor economy.

Representatives of outdoor recreation met with Gov. Inslee in November. L-r: Marc Berejka, Director Government and Community Affairs , REI; Jon Snyder, Policy Advisor to Gov. Inslee on Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development; Shiloh Schauer, Executive Director, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce; Katherine Hollis, Conservation and Advocacy Director, The Mountaineers; Julie Gregg, Director of Marketing and former WA Bikes board member, Sportworks NW; Jim Goldsmith, Board member, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation; Mary Dodsworth, Parks Director, City of Lakewood; Gov. Jay Inslee; Barb Chamberlain, Chief Strategic Officer, WA Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club; Mike Schlafmann, Public Services Staff Officer, US Forest Service; Kendee Yamaguchi, Trade and Economic Development Director, Snohomish County; David Batker, Executive Director, Earth Economics; Kahty Young, President, Backcountry Horsemen; Glenn Nelson, Contributing Editor, High Country News and Trail Posse; Bob Whittaker, Founder, Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

Representatives of outdoor recreation met with Gov. Inslee in November. L-r: Marc Berejka, Director Government and Community Affairs , REI; Jon Snyder, Policy Advisor to Gov. Inslee on Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development; Shiloh Schauer, Executive Director, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce; Katherine Hollis, Conservation and Advocacy Director, The Mountaineers; Julie Gregg, Director of Marketing and former WA Bikes board member, Sportworks NW; Jim Goldsmith, Board member, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation; Mary Dodsworth, Parks Director, City of Lakewood; Gov. Jay Inslee; Barb Chamberlain, Chief Strategic Officer, WA Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club; Mike Schlafmann, Public Services Staff Officer, US Forest Service; Kendee Yamaguchi, Trade and Economic Development Director, Snohomish County; David Batker, Executive Director, Earth Economics; Kahty Young, President, Backcountry Horsemen; Glenn Nelson, Contributing Editor, High Country News and Trail Posse; Bob Whittaker, Founder, Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

The Outdoor Industry Association lobbied hard for passage of the act; their report on its significance provides additional information.

Outdoor recreation is especially important in rural Washington, with jobs found in every county, every corner of the state, unlike some sectors that cluster their employment in major urban areas. At a recent meeting with outdoor interests as a follow-up to the 2014 Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which I co-chaired, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee reiterated the value of Washington’s great outdoors for future healthy generations.

Projects like the US Bicycle Route System and promotion of bike tourism have led to increased interest from local leaders and economic development interests. We’ve spoken with people from Grand Coulee and Lincoln County, Union Gap and Republic, Snohomish County and the Snoqualmie Valley, Spokane to Olympia, Port Angeles and the Tri-Cities, about how to invite more bike travelers. Across the state, leaders want to welcome those wallets on wheels!

Our recommendation: Working for Bicycle Friendly Community status sends a strong signal that a destination will welcome bike tourists; Ellensburg touts its Silver BFC status in its tourism marketing materials.

Including outdoor recreation and bike travel/tourism in local economic development plans also elevates their significance. In Wenatchee, for example, the community’s newly adopted action plan includes a regional trail network as a priority. Walla Walla recently celebrated news that they’re receiving a National Park Service planning grant for a regional trail network there as well.

Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh Schauer presented Gov. Inslee with the community's new action plan. It includes a regional trail network as a top priority, with the Chamber taking the lead to move the network forward.

Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh Schauer presented Gov. Inslee with the community’s new action plan. It includes a regional trail network as a top priority, with the Chamber taking the lead to move the network forward.

Trails in particular provide a destination asset — the more mileage in a trail system, the farther people will travel to experience it by bike and the more they spend when they’re on the trail. Washington Bikes works with advocates around the state to increase state investment in these valuable assets, from the John Wayne Pioneer Trail to the Olympic Discovery Trail to the Whitehorse Trail and beyond, along with investments in on-street bike networks for everyday riding in your hometown.

If you believe in the value of trails and bike tourism to grow our state’s economy, support our lobbying efforts for investment and policy to improve bicycling for all. With your donation you’ll be joining thousands of people who are riding with us!

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