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 Clement Lau


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

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Rail tracks on the left, rustic log-built train station painted reddish brown with a green metal roof and concrete platform on the right, evergreen forest and bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds in the background.

More Passenger Rail Coming to Montana

Planning is underway to restore a 45-year-defunct regional passenger rail line connecting southern Montana to Billings and Amtrak’s east-west Empire Builder line from Seattle to Chicago.

May 14, 2024 - 8KPAX

Apartment For Rent Sign

HUD Proposal Would Soften ‘One-Strike’ Policy

Formerly incarcerated people are often barred from publicly subsidized housing, putting them at higher risk for homelessness and recidivism.

May 20 - Truthout

Water flowing through Glendale Narrows section of Los Angeles River in Glendale, California with a concrete bridge, power lines, and hills in background.

Los Angeles County Making Progress in Stormwater Capture

During this “super year” of storms, L.A. County has successfully captured 96 billion gallons of stormwater which is enough to meet the needs of about 2.4 million people a year.

May 20 - Los Angeles Times

Aerial Texas Hill Country at sunset, with an aerial view of a highway interchange and Interstate 35 in Austin, Texas.

The True Cost of Texas Highways

An explainer of the monetary, environmental, and social costs of exuberant road building.

May 20 - KERA News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.