News

ORR Builds New Tool for Rural Communities to Build Their Outdoor Recreation Economies

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), working with Oregon State University’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative and the National Governors Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network, is helping rural communities build their outdoor recreation economies through a newly developed resource, the ORR Rural Economic Development Toolkit. Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic force nationally, generating $788 billion in economic output, comprising 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supporting 5.2 million jobs, and can also be utilized to strengthen individual communities across the country. The toolkit was developed with input from over 60 ORR stakeholders, includes links to a myriad resources and videos, and outlines real steps and actions rural communities can take, whether they already have a burgeoning outdoor recreation economy or they’re just getting started.

“We are excited to get the Rural Economic Development Toolkit up, running and out to the states and rural communities as the go-to resource to expand local outdoor recreation economies,” said Lindsey Davis, acting executive director of ORR. “It may seem simple for communities to build outdoor recreation economies but there are a ton of factors rural communities struggle with when attempting to broaden their communities’ economies, from bandwidth and monetary resources to messaging and public perceptions. This toolkit will be the resource to help communities navigate those challenges and be successful.”

ORR is focused on supporting our nation’s rural communities. Not only are they gateways to much of the land and water we recreate on but they are also huge economic opportunity zones for the outdoor recreation industry. The toolkit provides state and local officials, as well as rural community members information on 15 best practices for developing an outdoor recreation economy, from “Identify and Empower Local Champions” and “Build Collaboratives” to “Achieve Buy-In from the State” and “Ensure Value Capture.” It also outlines the various challenges rural communities could face as they take the steps to build their outdoor recreation economy – including limited staff, administrative bandwidth and funding challenges. Just as importantly, it discusses how to tackle misperceptions about outdoor recreation being simply about increasing tourism and dealing with cultural and infrastructure changes that occur when shifting reliance from just one economic driver to multiple.

The Rural Economic Development Toolkit will provide a resource for communities building up their outdoor recreation economies. Most communities will need additional resources to implement their plans. To overcome this hurdle, ORR compiled a list of federal grants and technical assistance to accompany the toolkit, which will support these communities in securing the funding  and assistance they will need to accomplish their economic goals.

In the coming weeks and months ORR plans to share the toolkit with state offices of outdoor recreation, industry businesses, community chambers and more. ORR will also promote the toolkit through social media and host an instructive webinar on January 21st for invited communities, stakeholders and more. 

ORR Supports Mayor Pete Buttigieg for Secretary of Transportation

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable offered strong support for the nomination of Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in a letter to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, specifically Chairwoman Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker. The letter outlines the vital role transportation infrastructure will play in the next infrastructure debate as well as policies related to reauthorization of the surface transportation legislation.

“ORR is more than excited to get working with Mayor Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation on efforts to modernize our transportation networks and infrastructure to provide access to quality outdoor recreation,”​ added Lindsey Davis, acting executive director of ORR. ​“If there is anything we have seen over the past year, and really over the past decade, it’s that Americans want access to more of the outdoors our nation has to offer. Modernizing our transportation infrastructure and bolstering DOT programs like the Recreational Trails Program, Federal Lands Transportation Program, the National Scenic Byways Program, and the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund will make a huge difference to allowing more Americans to safely and efficiently enjoy outdoor recreation.”

Read the full letter.

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Congratulates President Biden and Vice President Harris

“On behalf of more than thirty organizations that represent the 110,000 businesses and millions of employees nationwide that make up America’s outdoor recreation industry, ORR congratulates President Biden and Vice President Harris on their inauguration.

ORR’s members represent America’s hunting, fishing, RVing, biking, hiking, camping, off-roading, diving, boating, horseback and skiing communities, among many others. We look forward to working with, and being a resource for, President Biden and his administration on the $788 billion outdoor recreation economy and its 5.2 million jobs, and on issues of outdoor infrastructure, equitable access to the outdoors, environmentally friendly solutions, implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and more.

Americans value outdoor recreation for fun, for their health, and for the positive impact that it has on their communities. We appreciate the support that President Biden and members of his incoming administration have shown for this critical sector of our nation’s economy, and look forward to working together on the key pillars of economic recovery, COVID-19, racial equality, and climate change.“ – Lindsey Davis, acting executive director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

Read more about ORR’s key priorities as outlined for the incoming Biden administration in ORR’s transition policy paper.

ORR Statement on Biden Administration Nominees Critical to the Outdoor Recreation Industry

“ORR and our members congratulate former Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Katherine Tai on their nominations. While all cabinet level positions are vital to running an effective government, the outdoor recreation industry is particularly impacted by the policies and actions of the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The outdoor recreation industry looks forward to working together on an economic growth agenda for the nation that focuses on diversity and inclusion, climate change solutions and health through outdoor recreation and is encouraged by President-elect Biden’s choices. These positions are key to tackling harmful tariffs, public lands and waters access for all forms of recreation, and infrastructure and conservation funding so our industry can keep doing what we do best — support jobs, local communities and the health of people, our natural resources and economies across the country.” – Jessica Turner, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

ORR Announces Communities Receiving Funding to Grow Rural Economies through Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), in partnership with The VF Foundation, is thrilled to announce four communities receiving funding this year to implement their economic revitalization plans through outdoor recreation projects, infrastructure or activities. The selected communities are Fryeburg, ME; Grants, NM; Jasper, AL; and John Day, OR. This implementation funding is in addition to technical assistance supporting these and other communities received through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC). 

The four selected communities stood out for their connection to rural economic development, a core focus for the outdoor recreation industry, particularly as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. More Americans than ever looked to outdoor recreation as a means of physical and mental health this year and the trend is expected to continue. This is why ORR and the entire outdoor recreation industry are focusing attention on rural communities that want to plan for sustainable outdoor recreation as an economic growth engine through thoughtful, community-based plans.

“Opening the door to new and expanded recreation opportunities through locally-led programming will help our rural communities build back better during this difficult time,” said Gloria Schoch, Director of The VF Foundation and Global Impact. “We’re honored to collaborate with like-minded stakeholders to provide more rural communities with the necessary resources to help grow their economies and improve quality of life through greater access to the outdoors.”

“ORR and the outdoor recreation industry are proud to award these four communities grants that will put their recreation plans in action. We believe they are well-positioned to leverage these funds to grow jobs, attract and retain businesses and support their communities for years to come,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) Executive Director. “As more rural communities bolster their economies through outdoor recreation it will help rural America and the entire nation rebound from the pandemic and become more resilient in future economic and health crises. Additionally, three of the four communities (in New Mexico, Oregon, and Maine) will be supported by their state offices of outdoor recreation, positions ORR and our members wish to see created in all states to help with efforts to build outdoor recreation economies across the country.”

“First, I would like to express my appreciation to the granting authorities for their consideration of our application and the awarding of the grant,” said David O’Mary, Mayor of Jasper. “It has been a most pleasant experience for me to work with our local mountain bike enthusiasts in their pursuit of mountain bike trails in our City. The awarding of this grant points to their commitment and I am confident this is the first step towards a mountain bike course in the near future.”

“This assistance will directly contribute to the connectivity and accessibility of outdoor recreation in Fryeburg, including the creation of a vibrant downtown,” said Katie Haley, Town Manager. “The town of Fryeburg, its partners and the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission are excited to use these funds to implement goals and projects in the town that will have long term economic, environmental and social impacts.”

“The City of Grants and many local partners are gearing up to market and promote the vast opportunities in the area of Outdoor Recreation,” said Laura Jaramillo, City Manager. “After several planning sessions, the community was able to develop a strategic plan of action. The leaders envision great things happening in the outdoor recreation arena in the very near future.” 

“We are grateful for the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) and Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) grant programs for their technical and financial assistance. These awards empowered us to create and begin implementing a new recreation strategy for the City of John Day,” said Nicholas Green, City Manager. “ORR’s assistance will help propel our community’s recreation vision forward with new signage, waypoints, and other visual identifiers to make our trails and recreation areas easier to access and encourage visitors and residents to get out and recreate, shop and enjoy the natural beauty of our community.”

With the support of these grants, the four communities will work over the coming months to implement their rural development plans and receive in-kind support from across the industry. ORR plans to continue our partnership with the agencies around this RERC program and to support more communities in 2021.

Fryeburg, ME will use their grant to appraise a key property that supports recreation opportunities in preparation for acquisition, and develop a recreation inventory portal including online, digital, and printed mapping resources. These projects will support Fryeburg’s efforts to ensure outdoor access (in activities like biking, camping, boating, and rock climbing) to all members of its community, many of whom are low-income and/or members of minority groups. 

John Day, OR will use their grant to develop consistent branding and wayfinding sign design, as well as a destination analysis of top recreation sites to highlight. This work will engage the community, expand outdoor recreation opportunities like biking, camping, fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing, and help support John Day’s Main Street as a gateway to nearby public lands.

Grants, NM will use their grant to create a promotional guide to outdoor recreation opportunities in the communities including trail heads, local monuments, camp sites, cultural sites, recreation sites and other amenities. This guide will showcase diverse recreation activities including backpacking, hiking, biking, boating, campground & hospitality, equestrian, motorized and non-motorized water sports, and rock climbing, among others.

Jasper, AL will use their grant to develop, improve, and market the existing Russell Trail into a unique recreational facility for biking, hiking and cross-country running. The trail is nearby the town’s Main Street and will help revitalize the town by connecting recreation to existing businesses.

For more information:  https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/recreation-economy-rural-communities

For more information about EPA Community Revitalization: https://www.epa.gov/community-revitalization

For more information about USDA Forest Service: https://www.fs.usda.gov  

For more information about the Northern Border Regional Commission: http://www.nbrc.gov/

For more information about EPA Region 1 Smart Sectors Recreational Economy Partnership: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/newengland

For more information about EPA Region 8 Smart Sectors Recreational Economy Partnership: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/epa-region-8-smart-sectors-program

ORR Showcases Need for LWCF Funding from Across the Outdoor Industry

Newly Fully-Funded LWCF will Grow Recreation Economies, Outdoor Access for All Americans

Today, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable released the results of an industry-wide survey which collected key projects in need of funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act earlier this year, LWCF now will receive $900 million in mandatory annual funding for outdoor recreation and conservation projects across the nation. ORR put out a call for projects to outdoor recreation partners across the country and activity spectrum – including state Outdoor Recreation Directors, outdoor businesses and user groups – and received over 200 responses in two weeks. This overwhelming response shows the tremendous need for LWCF funding to create outdoor access in communities without recreation assets and grow recreation economies at a time when jobs and revitalization through the outdoors are needed most. 

“We called on the outdoor industry community to identify projects in need of LWCF funding that would have tangible recreational and economic impacts in local communities – and the response was overwhelming,” said ORR’s executive director Jessica Turner. “These initial eleven projects we are highlighting are great examples of how LWCF will benefit all forms of recreation and recreationists for generations to come. We look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration and engaging our state partners to ensure LWCF funding is implemented in a transparent and equitable way in order to get these projects funded and supporting communities and people on the ground.”

The release comes as Congress finishes negotiations on a FY21 spending package, which will allocate the first year of full LWCF funding at $900 million. The Senate Appropriations Bill included language pushing back on a Secretarial Order which put these projects at risk, specifically removing all projects from the Bureau of Land Management for motorized, sportsmen and snowmobiling. With Congressional action, ORR is hopeful that these projects are back on track and will have a tremendous impact on local recreation economies across the nation.

ORR will continue to source and share key projects from across the country, highlighting the great need for recreation access through LWCF dollars and showcasing how funding these projects will engage more people in outdoor recreation and grow the outdoor recreation industry for years to come. ORR and our partners will be working with Congress, the incoming administration and state entities to ensure the Great American Outdoors Act is implemented in a way that allows projects like these to move forward.

The highlighted projects showcase the recreation industry’s scope and opportunity, including:

  • Increasing recreation access for diverse user groups (sportsmen, powersports enthusiasts, hikers, boaters, climbers, bikers, RVers and many more);
  • Promoting rural economic development by adding value to nearby communities; and
  • Enhancing opportunities for underrepresented groups (e.g. Indigenous, Persons of Color, Low-income, Disabled and Immigrants, among others) 

From the full list, ORR has identified eleven outstanding projects that highlight just a few of the recreation opportunities made possible by LWCF. See additional descriptions of each project by clicking here.

Arizona: Homestead Climbing Area
LWCF Program: BLM Acquisition
Recreation Supported: Backpacking, Hiking, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, Rock Climbing 
Cost: $150,000
Shovel-Readiness: The Access Fund has temporary ownership and BLM is on board 
with long-term ownership. The state is supportive and local ranchers and NGOs are in favor.

Delaware: Fishing Pier, Delaware City Branch Channel of the C&D Canal
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Fishing, Wildlife Viewing, Walking, Biking  
Cost: $500,001 – $750,000
Shovel-Readiness: The project is well-suited for FY22. The project was designed as 
part of a joint plan by Delaware City, the State of Delaware, and Main Street Delaware City. The project was previously approved but lacked funding.

Michigan: Restore ATV/Snowmobile Trail from Dollar Bay to Lake Linden 
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: ATV, Snowmobile
Cost: $2,541,600
Shovel-Readiness: The project has been submitted by Michigan to NPS for FY22 
approval.

New Mexico: All Abilities Park  
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Playground 
Cost: $750,001 – $1,000,000
Shovel-Readiness: The City Council has identified this project as a Community Transformation and Economic Development (CTED) priority park, and the Parks and Cultural Affairs Department is ready to support. 

New Mexico: Bluewater Creek ACEC Acquisition
LWCF Program: BLM Acquisition
Recreation Supported: Backpacking, Hiking, Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, Rock Climbing, Archery
Cost: $500,000
Shovel-Readiness: The project has $280,000 of financial support from BLM and several NGOs.

Ohio: Bryson Park District, Eastview and Westview Parks
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Playground, Skating, Disc Golf, Kayaking, Canoe, Ball Sports
Cost: $1,000,000
Shovel-Readiness: In November, City Council members acted on a resolution authorizing the mayor to apply to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources LWCF grant program, and the town has applied.

Oregon: Junction City Fishing 
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Backpacking, Hiking, Boating, Fishing, Hunting, Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Wildlife Viewing, Archery  
Cost: $460,000
Shovel-Readiness: The project sponsor has secured some state funding and is in the final planning and design phase with the intent to start work on Phase 1 in Spring 2021 and complete Phase 2 in Fall 2021/Winter 2022. They have also begun discussions to get some private funding but with COVID those efforts were suspended, and they will be opening that dialogue again soon. The project has support from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Restoration and Enhancement Board. 

Oregon: Yellowjacket Reservoir Access
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Boating, Campground & Hospitality, Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Wildlife Viewing, Sailing, Motorboating
Cost: $200,000
Shovel-Readiness: The project is in the planning stages. The site has been identified as a priority fishing access location and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is prepared to manage and maintain the site. The Oregon Wildlife Foundation is actively fundraising for the project. 

Pennsylvania: North Delaware River Greenway
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance 
Recreation Supported: Biking, Boating, Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting, Sailing, Motorboating
Cost: $1,250,000 – $1,500,00
Shovel-Readiness: The City of Philadelphia has provided capital support for park projects on the greenway and partnered with Riverfront North Partnership (who would steward the space) on an update of its master plan. They have support from city council members. They expect to break ground in early 2023.

Washington: Renovating Lakeside Park
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, Sailing, Motorboating, Swimming
Cost: $1,187,596
Shovel-Readiness: The project has been submitted by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office for NPS funding and anticipates partial funding for this project in FY21 and full funding in FY22.

Washington: Port of Anacortes: Developing the Cap Sante Marina RV Park  
LWCF Program: State and Local Assistance
Recreation Supported: RV Camping
Cost: $2,311,971
Shovel-Readiness: This project has been submitted by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office for NPS funding and anticipates full funding in FY22.

ORR will continue to roll out lists of priority LWCF-eligible recreation projects gathered from the outdoor recreation industry.

ORR Teams with Federal Agencies to Help Rural Communities Grow their Economies through Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) is stepping up to help rural communities reinvigorate their local economies and create resilient communities through outdoor recreation thanks in large part to support from The VF Foundation. The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program, launched in 2019, is underway and ORR is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to support implementation grants for communities who have undergone technical assistance this year. ORR members know the value of recreation in rural communities and with The VF Foundation funding are ensuring these places have the initial investment they need to create an economic growth engine through the outdoors. 

Last year, the EPA, USFS and NBRC announced 10 communities selected for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program to help revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation. Those 10 communities – out of 170 that initially applied – include, Cambridge, New York; Fryeburg, Maine; Giles County, Virginia; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Gorham, New Hampshire; Grants, New Mexico; Jasper, Alabama; John Day, Oregon; Poultney, Vermont; and Thompson Falls, Montana. The rural communities chosen will need to apply through an ORR portal to receive implementation grant funding to help make their economic revitalization plans come to life. Those communities selected will be announced in December.

“Building on the success of EPA’s recreation economy technical assistance program, we are pleased to see ORR’s investment in this critical sector,” said Brittany Bolen, Associate Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Policy. “ By investing in these untapped natural resources, rural communities can improve air and water quality while also boosting the local economy.” 

“The Forest Service applauds ORR for helping rural communities advance their local recreation economy,” said John Phipps, Deputy Chief of USDA Forest Service. “Creative partnerships like this are key to the future of our nation’s forests and the communities that depend on them.” 

“We’ve been so happy with EPA’s leadership and approach to working with these communities, and ORR’s continued investment will advance this work even further, building additional capacity and momentum at the right time,” said Rich Grogan, Executive Director of the Northern Border Regional Commission.  

“Opening the door to new and expanded recreation opportunities through locally-led programing will help our rural communities build back better during this difficult time,” said Gloria Schoch, Director of The VF Foundation and Global Impact.  “We’re honored to collaborate with like-minded stakeholders to provide more rural communities with the necessary resources to help grow their economies and improve quality of life through greater access to the outdoors.”

“We are ready to support this implementation phase of the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities assistance program,” said Jessica Turner, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) Executive Director. “During the pandemic, the outdoor recreation community has seen huge increases in outdoor participation, and we don’t see it waning any time soon. At the same time, rural communities across the nation are in dire need of economic revitalization or diversification in order to strengthen their resiliency. Now is the perfect time for rural communities to take action and take advantage of the outdoor recreation economy to help provide more jobs and revenue.” 

The 10 communities selected last year received technical assistance to begin creating plans to revitalize their communities utilizing outdoor recreation, whether through new trail connections or attracting new recreation-related economic opportunities. Their plans include identifying a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize the locally set goals.

For more information:  https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/recreation-economy-rural-communities

For more information about EPA Community Revitalization:  https://www.epa.gov/community-revitalization

For more information about USDA Forest Service: https://www.fs.usda.gov/  

For more information about the Northern Border Regional Commission: http://www.nbrc.gov/

For more information about EPA Region 1 Smart Sectors Recreational Economy Partnership: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/newengland

For more information about EPA Region 8 Smart Sectors Recreational Economy Partnership: https://www.epa.gov/smartsectors/epa-region-8-smart-sectors-program

Background

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable promotes the growth of the outdoor recreation economy and outdoor recreation activities and is the leading outdoor recreation coalition with 33 member associations serving over 110,000 businesses. ORR’s members represent America’s hunting, fishing, RVing, biking, hiking, camping, ATVing, diving, horseback and skiing communities among many more.

The EPA Office of Community Revitalization supports locally led, community-driven efforts to expand economic opportunity, protect human health and the environment, and create and enhance the places that people love. Through technical assistance, publications, research, tools, and grants, EPA is helping America’s communities turn their visions of the future into reality.

The USDA Forest Service develops and implements place-based recreation planning using collaborative processes with communities and outdoor recreation and tourism providers within regional destination areas. Forest Service recreation programs support over 205,000 jobs, the majority of which are in rural gateway communities near national forests.  The agency partners with states, tribes, local communities, and landowners to promote shared stewardship of public and privately owned forests and grasslands.

Created in 2008, the Northern Border Regional Commission (www.nbrc.gov) is a federal-state partnership whose mission is to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private sector job creation throughout the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. In its eleven-year history, the commission has awarded 248 grants amounting to more than $56 million across the four states through its primary Economic & Infrastructure Development (EID) grant program and other special initiatives.

Updated Government Report Highlights Outdoor Recreation’s Positive National Economic Impact and in Every State

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released updated economic data on outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy showing $788 billion in economic output, comprising 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supporting 5.2 million jobs. The report includes national and state level data for both 2018 and 2019. 

This is the third consecutive year that BEA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has released data on the outdoor recreation economy and the third year the industry has shown growth across the board. Today’s release shows how this growing sector was growing rapidly prior to the pandemic and where it can lead again as an economic growth engine and job creator. 

Key Highlights from BEA’s new report on the outdoor recreation economy:

  • Outdoor recreation makes up 2.1 percent of U.S. GDP, generating $788 billion in gross output and supporting 5.2 million jobs. 
  • In terms of economic output, boating/fishing, RVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, motorcycling/ATVing, and equestrian sports are the five largest conventional outdoor recreation activities.
  • The top states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of each states’ total GDP are Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming.
  • The top five states where outdoor recreation accounts for the largest percentage of total U.S. GDP are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. 

“This year’s data on the impact of the outdoor recreation economy is reaffirming for the entire outdoor recreation industry, particularly after the last few months we have all had,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “The fact the industry generates $788 billion in output, comprises 2.1% of U.S. GDP and supports 5.2 million jobs is huge for the U.S economy, rural and gateway communities and Americans looking for jobs or to start a career in a growing and powerful industry. This, combined with the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, bolsters the benefits of the outdoor recreation economy and our efforts to ensure all Americans have access to our public lands and waters.” 

“The BEA data reinforces what we in the powersports industry have known for some time,” said Erik Pritchard, president of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. “Motorcycles, ATV and side-by-sides fuel the outdoor economy through production, assembly, distribution and dealerships across the country. Our riders pay nearly $300 million per year in gas taxes into the highway trust fund and they spend millions more at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and sporting goods stores. We’ve seen record sales during COVID-19 as new and returning riders flock to powersports as a socially distant form of recreation that is fun for individuals and families alike.”

“The BEA release of economic data comes at a time when the health and wellness benefits of recreation cannot be overstated,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “A recent poll showed 69 percent of Americans have gained a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. People want to get outside for their physical and mental health. What’s more, they yearn for social connection, which they can find through safely distanced activities in neighborhood parks or national parks. The Outdoor Industry Association and our partners have and will continue to prioritize ways we can contribute to the economic, health, and well-being benefits across the U.S. in rural and urban communities. Now more than ever, we need the outdoors.” 

“The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds represents over 3,000 private park owners and vendors throughout North America,” said Paul Bambei, president & CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “We’ve used ORSA data to effectively open doors with both local, state and national legislators to make our case that we are a viable contributor to the economy, which has led to many positive outcomes. Going forward, we wouldn’t enter a political discussion without having ORSA data in our hip pocket.” 

“In many ways, the uptick in outdoor recreation activity during the pandemic only reinforces the findings in the 2018 and 2019 data, showing that recreational boating, fishing, and the broader outdoor recreation industry are sectors we should further invest in as we look towards recovery,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This report provides invaluable insights about the role of the outdoor recreation industry in boosting regional economies all over the country and will be vitally important as we work with policymakers to provide meaningful investments and expand access to our nation’s favorite pastimes.”

“The outdoor recreation data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is invaluable in helping us grow and support the outdoor industry in North Carolina,” said Amy Allison, director of the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “These numbers show the strength of the outdoor recreation industry as a powerful economic driver in our state, and will help us to move the needle toward positive action that supports the industry and supports a healthy infrastructure of public lands that is vital to our economic growth.” 

“In Montana we understand the far reaching benefits and impacts of a healthy and vibrant outdoor recreation economy on nearly every facet of our lives and livelihoods,” said Rachel Schmidt, director of the Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Having this economic data is vitally important to forming the best policy decisions to support and enhance the recreation economy at every level of government in the country.”

America’s outdoor recreation community, represented by ORR, continues to support the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – the official name for the project. Just like is the case for many other industries, the goal is to provide annual data on the economic importance of national and regional outdoor recreation economies that can be tracked for years to come. To learn more about ORR and outdoor recreation’s contributions to the economy, click here

State of the Industry: ORR Survey Shows a Promising Outlook for the Outdoor Recreation Industry

Still, Nothing Will Make up for the Complete Closures This Past Spring

An updated Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) member survey, in partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative, finds that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the outdoor recreation industry is showing signs of easing, with some turnaround from what was a devastating spring for the industry. The new August data paints a picture of a resurgence within many sectors of the industry; some areas with record high sales, and more people and newer and younger consumers prioritizing their time and resources during a recession on outdoor recreation. While the trend is heading in the right direction, it has not been universal across the industry and more support is needed as many outdoor recreation businesses are still suffering and in danger of permanent closure.

“According to the US Census Bureau, outdoor recreation was the second most impacted industry this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, next to food and accommodation,” said Lindsey Davis, Vice President of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The industry experienced a double whammy impact due to both the pandemic related closures that slowed entire supply chains, retail, manufacturing and services and the closures of state and federal parks, marinas, trails, docks and more on our public lands.” 

According to a review of previous responses and ORR’s most recent survey responses of the 23 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing over 25,000 businesses with nearly 2.5 million employees, the numbers show how hard the industry was initially impacted and how things have started to trend better for a lot of the industry: 

Combined Results: (The below statistics represent a change of year-over-year) 

Production / distribution: 

  • April: Of the businesses this survey represents, 89%, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 68% experiencing significant impacts.  
  • May: Of the businesses this survey represents, 100%, are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 79% experiencing significant impacts.  
  • August: Of the businesses this survey represents, 91% are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 48% experiencing significant impacts.  

Business Revenue: 

  • April: 89% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 39% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • May: 94% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 24% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • August: 65% of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with 17% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 22% of businesses are reporting an increase compared to one year ago.   

Trade Association Revenue:  

  • April: 80% of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 30% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • May: 95%of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 26% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 
  • August: 70% of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 13% seeing a decrease of 50-75% or greater. 9% of trade associations are reporting an increase compared to one year ago.   

 Business Employment: 

  • April: 79% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 11% closing, or laying off most of or all of staff.  
  • May: 88% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce, with 8% closing, or laying off most of or all of staff.  
  • August: 47% of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce. 36% of businesses are reporting they are hiring, and more employees are needed.   

“We hope that the trends we are seeing now in outdoor recreation continue, and that some of the issues our members and businesses still face are quickly addressed by policy makers,” said Jessica Turner, Executive Director of ORR. “It has become widely known that recreation is a huge economic driver and with more smart investments like the recently passed Great American Outdoors Act, such as a Recreation Package, this industry will be a key player in economic recovery and a solution to other issues facing the nation such as unemployment, rural development, equity in outdoor access and mental and physical health.”

This is the third time ORR has surveyed its member trade associations, which represent over 110,000 RVing, camping, boating, fishing, powersports, horseback, hunting, skiing, hiking, biking businesses and more, about the impacts their member companies have experienced since the pandemic began.

Passing Great American Outdoors Act is Just Beginning for the Outdoor Recreation Industry

Passing the Great American Outdoors Act was a huge accomplishment for the outdoor recreation industry and the thousands of businesses, large and small, that makeup the $778 billion recreation economy. Now that this huge achievement of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and allocating real funding for federal land management agencies’ deferred maintenance on infrastructure at our parks, campgrounds, forests, lakes and rivers is signed into law, the real work for our sector is just beginning. ORR is working strategically with the agencies to get the biggest Return on Investment (“ROI”) for their deferred maintenance projects, update entire recreation sites and experiences, and utilize Land and Water Conservation Funding for rural economic development and increased equitable access to parks and green spaces.

“ORR has already begun to partner on implementation, strategy and transparency while representing the diverse array of outdoor business community needs in the GAOA roll-out,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “We are working with agencies like the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the National Park Service to understand their processes for prioritization and classification of Deferred Maintenance projects. ORR is advocating for GAOA funding to focus on the recreation backlog to ensure improvement to existing access and improved recreational experiences. ORR’s analysis indicates that the USFS has the unique opportunity to address the entire recreation backlog with remaining funding for other non-recreation projects.”

“At the same time, ORR is engaging the recreation business community to coordinate with state and federal agencies on LWCF projects that will spur rural development and create equity in outdoor access in communities across the county. It is an all hands effort, but worth every second in order to get the recreation projects we’ve worked so hard to fund moving forward to support local people, communities, businesses and economies.”

Specifically, ORR has the developed the following for GAOA implementation:

A set of deferred maintenance strategy recommendations aimed at planning, contracting and oversight, and highlighting returns on investment for the United States Forest Service to best identify key recreation targets and opportunities as well as successfully solve for the entire recreation maintenance backlog.

An LWCF overview on how prioritization of recreation projects with the now $900 million annual funding can create access in areas far from recreation opportunities and balanced economic development for rural communities.

ORR will continue to provide updates on the remaining work to implement the Great American Outdoors Act in order to help ensure outdoor recreation is accessible for generations of Americans while stimulating the outdoor recreation industry and the U.S. economy now.