Outdoor Recreation and a Growing Economy a Perfect Match

Sometimes, a shot of history can make you feel good.

Perusing the June 5 to 11 Pittsburgh Business Times, I was, as I often am, taken in by the lists that they generate each week, ranking everything from architecture firms to executive compensation and construction projects. That week’s lists focused on tourism: museums, entertainment venues, and conventions.

Davitt Woodwell photo 2016 (3)
Davitt Woodwell

Other lists included that week looked at historic rankings: largest conventions over the last 15 years and most number of hotel room nights in the same period. From those lists, two events immediately jumped out, because we, at PEC, had been closely involved with them: the 2005 BASS/ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Classic, and the 2009 FLW Forrest Wood Cup.

Respectively, they were No. 6 and No. 8 for the region as the largest draws of people, and No. 2 and No. 3 for most room nights since 2001. They outdrew NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments, and sold more hotel rooms than the NHL Winter Classic and the U.S. Open.

I am a skeptic of such numbers, but will settle for the apparent fact that these celebrations of outdoor recreational pursuits at least held their own with more conventional events. But, what the numbers really make me go back to is the impact that solitary and small group recreations have, not only on those who undertake them, but also on the economies where they occur.

To support this, more and more studies are coming out showing the value that trails have on communities. The Great Allegheny Passage and Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh are but two.

In 2012, the Outdoor Industry Association showed over $600 billion in economic activity linked to outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Recreation Economy

These are the numbers that help make the case that communities and government can easily justify investment in outdoor recreational infrastructure. But for PEC, that is really one means to an end, and represents one of the co-benefits of developing and maintaining trails, parks, boat launches, and other access opportunities to the outdoors. Our main goal in continuing to promote and develop recreational infrastructure is that it gets people outside and, we hope, gives them the opportunity to understand why environmental stewardship is so important and benefits them, their communities, and our Commonwealth.

So, this summer, please join those making the big impacts on the economy and get outside. It may do us all some good.