3:13 pm - Monday December 18, 9645

Booming: Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Economy

Kathleen Ryan

DENVER – There’s big bucks in outdoor recreation for the state of Colorado, according to a new report from the Outdoor Industry Association. It tallied what people spend on outdoor gear and clothing, guide services, and travel expenses, and said it totals more than $13 billion in Colorado. It also brings in nearly a million dollars in state and local taxes.

Denver-based Trout’s Fly Fishing is one of those outdoor recreation businesses. Owner Tucker Ladd recalled the dry, fire-filled summer of 2002 when tourism plummeted, and the effects rippled across the state.

“It’s not just fly shops and ski areas and river outfitters,” Ladd remarked. “It’s grocery stores. It’s gas stations. It’s hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.”

Ladd only employs five people, but he said a small business such as his is the proverbial canary in the coal mine: if they can survive, it means the outdoor industry is healthy. And, he said, bigger outfitters such as Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops plan on opening huge retail stores on the Front Range later this year, in another sign of the industry’s health.

Peter Dykstra with The Wilderness Society said people may not think of recreation as an industry because they see it as a hobby. But more people are working so that others can play outdoors. In Colorado, according to the report, outdoor recreation directly generates 125,000 jobs that pay $4.2 billion in wages.

“The reason this is important information for land conservation is, they’re not making any more land and we need to protect it,” Dykstra remarked. “And by doing so, we create the one thing we do need more of and can create more of, which is more jobs.”

Nationwide, outdoor recreation employs more Americans than the oil and gas and technology industries combined. Tucker Ladd said he thinks that’s a big reason to balance recreation and energy development on Colorado lands.

“Smart growth and planning it out is going to be better for everyone in the long term than is just letting all this land get used for oil and gas exploration without really looking at the long-term effects it has on outdoor recreation,” Ladd declared.

The report found that at least 65 percent of Coloradans participate in outdoor recreation each year.

See the report at OutdoorIndustry.org.

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