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OPINION | JOHN PAUL SHAFFER AND JOEL HODGDON: Get outdoors

Recreation economy benefits Arkansas by JOHN PAUL SHAFFER AND JOEL HODGDON SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | September 24, 2021 at 3:00 a.m.

For close to a decade, we have been able to quantify outdoor recreation as a major economic force in America, to the tune of $788 billion in output, 5.2 million jobs and 2.1 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

These staggering figures were calculated prior to the surge in outdoor recreation participation seen during the covid-19 pandemic that propelled camping, fishing and vehicle sales, but also underscored the need for more investment in our outdoor infrastructure to accommodate our already heavy participation and to further support access for communities with limited recreation assets and green spaces.

While the increase in recreation helped support local businesses around the country, others, particularly in rural America, were severely impacted by pandemic-related closures and the lack of tourists making their way to these gateway communities.

This is why we are so excited about a recent effort to expand outdoor recreation in Arkansas.

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable board members met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recently signed an executive order establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation, making Arkansas the 18th state to establish such an office or task force. In the meeting, the governor discussed how this new office will be able to strengthen coordination and investment in the powerful economic engine that is the outdoor recreation industry in The Natural State.

This will help to take the outdoor recreation economy to new heights in our state, where it already generates $2.1 billion in economic output, supports 40,000 jobs and comprises 2.2 percent of the state's economy. The Office of Outdoor Recreation will establish Arkansas as a leader in the outdoor space--from hunting and fishing to ATVing, biking and more--and set an example for other states in expanding investment in the outdoor recreation economy.

As a result of these investments, the outdoor recreation economy is primed to grow even more in the state, building healthy communities, supporting jobs and economies, and connecting all Arkansans and Americans to the mental and physical health benefits the outdoors provides.

These efforts, combined with others taking place across the country, show the growing recognition of outdoor recreation as a crucial part of the nation's economy at all levels.

The entire outdoor recreation industry stands ready to work in partnership with the governor and his committed team to expand this vital economic sector and ensure all Americans have access to outdoor recreation on Arkansas public lands and waters for generations to come.


John Paul Shaffer is the Bentonville-based Northwest Arkansas Bike Business Innovation director with PeopleForBikes and a lifelong lover of the outdoors. Joel Hodgdon serves as marketing director for "Big Green," Remington's historic ammunition factory in Lonoke.

Print Headline: Get outdoors

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