Did you know... Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips ($81 billion) each year than they do on airplane tickets and fees ($51 billion)? Or that the outdoor recreation industry accounts for $646 billion in spending each year, supporting 6.1 million direct jobs and generating $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue?
That outdoor recreation amenities like rail-trails are powerful economic engines is no surprise to the many communities across America sustained and bolstered by trails tourism. And the data about their true value continue to pile up.
The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) this month released an economic studythat found that outdoor recreation is one of America's fastest growing industries and a major job generator in both the manufacture and sale of equipment, but also in the American communities served by recreation amenities. In fact, trips and travel-related spending accounted for $524.8 billion of the total $646 billion in outdoor recreation spending each year.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) was highlighted in the report, a terrific example of destination rail-trails bringing life, commerce and sustainable business back to towns once decimated by the closure of primary industries. A 2012 study by the Center for Regional Progress at Frostburg State University found that trail tourism along the GAP injects an estimated $50 million dollars a year in direct spending in these towns.
Of course, the message behind the OIA report is that outdoor recreation amenities, such as protected public lands and trails, are crucial to the continued success of this industry. With any luck, our state governors are paying attention, as this month they prepare to decide whether to opt out of Recreational Trails Program (RTC) funding and instead use that tiny percentage of funds dedicated for public trails for continued highway expansion and maintenance.
Does your Governor believe public trails are important amenities for the citizens of your state? Help us urge elected officials to retain RTP funding.