Water pours over the dam on Jones Mill Run in Laurel Hill State Park. If fewer people are exploring the outdoors these days, those that remain active are spending lots of money.
We hear all the time about how people, and young people especially, don’t look to the outdoors for recreation like they once did.
Sadly, it’s all true enough.
But, the people who do go outside to play are spending money. And they’re expected to spend more this year than last.
Recently, the American Recreation Coalition put out a report looking at what happened in 2015 and making some predictions for this year. It’s pretty positive, if you’re a retailer of outdoor goods.
According to the report, Americans spend more than $650 billion annually on equipment ranging from skis and tents to RVs and boats and on services ranging from fishing licenses to zip lines. All that supports millions of jobs in manufacturing, sales and service, it said.
Visitation to National Parks is behind some of that. It was up by 3.66 percent last year.
State parks draw people, too, though. The report estimated visitors at more than 740 million last year, an increase of 12 million over 2014. More than 50 million of those people camped.
The report made no mention of hunting or shooting sports – why those are often overlooked in these kinds of efforts is a mystery – but did look at some other specific categories.
The number of recreational vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles sold last year was up, continuing a trend, the report added. Fishing was again a big draw, as well. Nearly 46 million Americans 6 and older – about 16 percent of the entire country — fished last year, a number the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation hopes to grow to 60 million by 2021.
Boat sales – while not yet back to their post-recession high – were up 6 percent and are expected to go up another 5 percent this year, the report said.
Sales of bicycles increased, as did revenues associated with whitewater rafting, kayaking and paddlesports.
The report said manufacturers and retailers are optimistic that all of that growth will continue this year.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
We all go to the woods and waters to relax and have fun, and sometimes solitude — or at least solitude with our own group — is a part of what we seek.
But the more people advocating for wild places and wild resources the better. So let’s hope for some company out there.