Adapted from Outdoor Industry Association news releases, reports, and Headwaters Economics website
In 2017, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) released the largest and most comprehensive national and State-level reports on the Outdoor Recreation Economy. OIA also produced a State Funding Mechanisms for Outdoor Recreation report, prepared by the independent research nonprofit Headwaters Economics. These reports show that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, supporting over 7.6 million American jobs and each year generating more than $887 billion in consumer spending, $59.2 billion in State and local tax revenue, and $65.3 billion in Federal tax revenue—and it is poised to grow.
When leaders invest in outdoor recreation, research shows that it can also reduce crime rates, improve educational outcomes, and lower health care costs. Therefore, OIA urges elected policymakers to take the following actions:
- Protect America’s lands, trails, and waters, the assets that are the foundation of the outdoor recreation economy.
- Adequately fund State and local parks and trails to make them attractive and accessible to families and friends seeking to get outside.
- Raise awareness of the importance of the outdoor recreation economy and promote it as part of community and public health policy and programming.
- Develop and plan urban areas in a way that every citizen can get outside and recreate within 30 minutes of their home.
- Support policies that encourage outdoor innovators to start businesses.
However, Federal funding that traditionally has supported outdoor recreation at the State and local level, through programs such as the Recreational Trails Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, has an uncertain future. In addition, parks and recreation areas in many States are facing budget cuts from State general funds, and revenue from entrance and user fees cannot self-fund agencies that struggle to keep up with operations.
To address these issues, OIA’s report includes strategies employed across the country, best practices for funding outdoor recreation at the State level, and detailed case studies of seven States. Characteristics of the strongest programs include:
- Dedicated revenue through constitutional amendment or statute.
- Broad coalitions of support.
- Flexibility to fund diverse geographies, community types, and project outcomes.
- The ability to leverage funds and statewide goals.
- Strong public engagement, accountability, and transparency throughout the process.
When we invest in the foundation of the recreation economy—our public lands, trails, and waters—there is compounding return in the form of healthier communities, healthier economies, and healthier people.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.
Click below to view the reports