Outdoor Recreation Boosted by the Pandemic

The pandemic brought droves of people to Wisconsin’s outdoors, resulting in crowds on trails and at camp sites as well as a growth in the outdoor recreation and manufacturing economy.

2 minute read

November 2, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By clementkhlau

Outdoor Recreation

David Prahl / Shutterstock

Hiking, camping, biking, and other outdoor activities have always been important to Wisconsin's residents and economy. They became even more so as a result of COVID-19.

As Barry Adams reports in this article, the pandemic actually boosted the outdoor recreation industry in Wisconsin, as evidenced by a 371% increase in searches for hikes and trails on travelwisconsin.com (the state's travel website), a 24% increase in the sale of ATV trail passes, a 100% increase in the number of those buying a fishing license for the first time, and an 18% rise in visits to state parks. The article shares the findings of a study conducted before COVID-19 which reveal just how significant the outdoor recreation is to the people and economy of Wisconsin:

  • From 2012 to 2017, the state’s $7.8 billion outdoor recreation and manufacturing economy grew by 12% compared with 7% increase in the state’s overall economy. 
  • The recreation industry employs 93,000 people and creates $3.9 billion in wages. - Fishing contributes $1.5 billion to the state economy, while ATV riders spend $295 million and snowmobilers $250 million.
  • 61% of Wisconsinites had boated in the past year and nonmotorized events like cross-country skiing, mountain biking and running races bring in almost $15 million just in the northern counties of Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer.
  • Bicyclists spend an estimated $534 million a year on trips in the state. 

The study was commissioned by the state's department of tourism. Mary Monroe Brown, director of the department's office of outdoor recreation, indicates that the pandemic has only bolstered the above numbers, saying "We do know there has definitely been an increase in participation....And when you participate in an activity, you’re purchasing gear. And when you’re purchasing gear and using it in that activity, you’re going to certain places to experience that and staying in a cabin or camping or building out a van in order to experience all the great places Wisconsin has to offer."

Thursday, October 29, 2020 in Wisconsin State Journal

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