Study: Outdoor rec is big business in northern New York

Kids try out stand-up paddleboards on Lake Colby in the village of Saranac Lake in June 2012 at the SUP Festival hosted by Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters. (Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

It’s no surprise the congressional district that covers much of the Adirondacks is home to a lot of outdoor recreation, but a group has found that New York’s 21st Congressional District generates an astounding $1.5 billion annually.

The Outdoor Industry Association released its report for all 435 congressional districts in the U.S., and NY21 is solidly in the top 20 in terms of economic output related to outdoor pursuits. OIA’s report found that NY21 is home to dozens of outdoor recreation companies and that watersports, camping and off-roading are the most popular activities in the district, which covers the vast majority of the Adirondack Park and St. Lawrence Valley.

OIA said in its report that residents in NY21 spend $1.51 billion, and its analysis is based on where outdoor recreationists live.

That total does not include money spent by foreign visitors to this area on the northern U.S. border that welcomes a large number of tourists from Canada.

OIA said in a press release that nationwide, outdoor recreation supports almost 8 million jobs while 145 million Americans (44 percent of the national population) take part in outdoor pasttimes each year.

“These reports show that all districts have something to gain when our federal and local policymakers support our public lands and waters and invest in outdoor recreation,” OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts said in the release. “Outdoor recreation provides much-needed diversity to local economies, but also brings this country together.

“Across our country we have seen members of Congress, governors, state legislators, mayors and other policymakers understand the value of outdoor recreation for their local economies and communities. It is critical that we continue to invest in and support this growing and powerful recreation economy so that we can all continue to thrive outside.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report showing outdoor recreation is a growing and significant part of the overall American economy.

According to the initial data, outdoor recreation is a more than $373 billion industry, accounting for a full 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“Businesses need the right data to help them hire, invest and grow,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a release accompanying the federal report. “The historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors.

“The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more.”

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