Recreation initiative is laudable, but skepticism is justified
Ryan Summerlin January 25, 2013
Utah businesses that benefit from activities practiced in the great outdoors got a big boost this week. The Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Market organizers announced the event would continue to take place in Salt Lake City through 2016 with negotiations planned to potentially extend the contract even further.
In addition to generating about $40 million per year during the event itself, the biannual trade show serves as an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the state’s ski areas, national parks, world-class competition facilities and hiking and biking trails, to name just a few. According to the organizers, each show brings in about 1,000 exhibitors and attracts more than 20,000 attendees, and many of them stay to play after the shows. You could call it a fam tour on steroids.
With that in mind, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is not confused about the value of the marketplace, or the overall impact of the outdoor recreation industry on the state’s economy. And this week, with downtown Salt Lake City packed to the gills with outdoor enthusiasts, he unveiled an ambitious Outdoor Recreation Vision plan.
The 60-page document calls for establishing a state-level office of outdoor recreation, holding an annual summit of stakeholders, conducting ongoing research in the field, setting up a task force to develop funding for outdoor recreation programs, services and facilities, and working with state and federal officials on improving land management policies.
Overall the vision plan appears to be an unqualified manifesto in support of outdoor recreation. But those who follow Utah politics closely may still be skeptical, and rightfully so. In between the enthusiastic paragraphs about the state’s stunning natural landscapes and famous ski areas are several hints that everyone’s outdoor vision for Utah may not be the same. After all, this is the same state that passed a bill calling for the federal government to transfer 20 million acres of land to state control, that has dragged its feet on measures to curtail climate change, and often favors mineral development over conservation.
Nevertheless, state leaders are to be congratulated for convincing the Outdoor Retailer Market to stay in Utah. They also deserve credit for coming up with a comprehensive Vision plan which is an excellent platform for continued discussion.