While the travel and tourism industry took a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people elected to stay home and avoid travel, outdoor recreation has remained a bright spot.
Recent data from the Outdoor Industry Association showed a 2.4 percentage point jump in total outdoor participation among Americans from 2019 to 2020. Outdoor activities of all types became an enticing alternative for people looking to get away from home while keeping their risk of spreading or contracting the coronavirus relatively low. The OIA data specifically estimated that 2020 saw 8.1 million more hikers, 7.9 million new campers, and 3.4 million additional freshwater fishers taking advantage of the great outdoors during COVID-19. This trend may also reflect larger shifts in people’s lifestyle preferences, as COVID-19 has inspired many workers to leave dense urban areas for locations where outdoor space is more plentiful.
Currently, overall spending on parks and recreation is led by states with larger populations and greater economic activity. California, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Texas are the biggest spenders, and they also represent the five largest economies and five of the top six largest populations. Per capita spending paints a different picture, as several states in the Midwest—including Illinois, North Dakota, and Minnesota—all rank among the top five in the country. Mountain states like Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming also spend among the most per capita. For many of these leading states, investments in parks and recreation are an important tool for generating economic activity. Developing parks and recreational sites around the state’s natural scenery helps bring in visitors—and dollars—to these states.
To find these locations, researchers at CLIQ analyzed data on state and local government finances from the U.S. Census Bureau and data on the outdoor recreation economy from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers divided total parks and recreation spending in each state by the state’s population to rank the states with the highest spending per capita. The research team also gathered data on outdoor recreation’s economic effects, including the share of state GDP and the share of total state employment.
The analysis found that jobs in parks and recreation account for 2.3% of total employment in Virginia. Each year, Virginia invests about $1.1B into its parks and recreation areas, which amounts to $131 per resident. This investment puts Virginia ranking pretty much in the mean with a ranking of 23rd.
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on CLIQ’s website: https://www.cliqproducts.com/blogs/news/states-spending-the-most-on-parks-and-recreation