As we’ve reported the National Governor’s Association recently launched Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. The network is meant to promote economic growth amongst states through the outdoor industry. The new network will look to Utah for much of its leadership.
In 2013 Utah became the first state to launch an office of outdoor recreation. The current director of the office Tom Adams says that Utah’s outdoor recreation economy is a 12.3-billion-dollar industry that houses over 110,000 jobs according to a 2016 figure, with growth occurring since then.
“Our state is really diverse from corner to corner,” Adams continued. “Anything that you can do outside recreating is included in that. Tourism dollars are included in that, RV sales, boat sales, equipment sales, all of that comes into that 12.3 billion dollars. People are getting out and recreating and we're here to support them.”
Adams notes the industry helps bring jobs to Utah, including jobs outside of outdoor recreation.
“The infrastructure around our state brings great talent,” Adams said. “If you're familiar with Adobe, which everybody is at their computer but, a lot of people are familiar with Adobe because they have a huge cycling club. They get out and ride, they get out and ski. A lot of businesses like that really appreciate recreation.”
As the outdoor recreation industry grows so does the pressure on natural amenities. Part of relieving that pressure includes creating outdoor recreation infrastructure.
“We have a grant in our office,” Adams explained. “It’s called the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant. It's a grant that’s state funded. We have about five million dollars a year. Our whole goal is to build new recreation infrastructure around the state. That can either contribute to quality of life for resident or help pull people away and disperse them from some of the really popular areas. That's a model that we didn't create. I mean state parks really has done a phenomenal job here in the state, with 44 state parks. I had one of the state directors tell me this week here at NGA that some of our state parks are as good as national parks in any other state. We need to find those areas and highlight them as much as we're highlighting our national parks.”
Utah’s Outdoor Recreation office joined 14 other states as part of a learning network to promote economic growth in the outdoor industry in all states. Adams says being part of the network will benefit Utah and other members of the National Governors Association.
“I think NGA's model is a perfect fit here,” Adams continued. “Because if anybody needs anything, they can call any one of us state director. We’re very supportive of each other. So, you know it could be recreation infrastructure, it could be business recruitment, it could be health and wellness policy, and we’ll all work together to support each other.”
You can find out more about Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation here.