Utah’s outdoor summit shows growth, partnernships in the state
The red rock in and around Zion National Park and the rocky mountains of Park City might be different in their terrain, but the issues affecting both recreational meccas are surprisingly comparable.
Finding similarities between towns, industries and organizations was a common theme throughout the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit, which took place from Sept. 4-6 at the Zermatt Resort in Midway. About 450 people from businesses, nonprofits and other organizations impacted by outdoor recreation in Utah attended the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation’s annual event.
Attendees said the summit was a good time to see what is going on in the recreation industry at large, rather than just in their towns or regions.
“It’s a great opportunity to network and find out who is doing what,” said Jean Seiler, director of marketing for Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon National Park. “You get away so you can get a little perspective.”
That perspective showed him that he is not alone in the problems the region is facing, such as overcrowding within the national park, leading to traffic, environmental concerns and poor experiences for the visitors.
During one of the sessions, he and fellow Ruby’s Inn employees learned about the online portal the University of Utah is developing to help gateway and natural amenity regions — such as Bryce Canyon and Park City — handle the “big city” problems they are facing. They said they are eager to continue working together as a state to tackle issues.
Bob Radke, trails and project development manager for Basin Recreation, attended the same session to learn how to manage growth in Park City, because the heavy use of the trails system in Park City is concerning.
After the session, he said partnering with surrounding towns to develop their trails could help spread out the hikers and bikers.
Randy Gibb, owner of Mad Dog Cycles in Orem, said he came away from the summit optimistic about the future of recreation in Utah because of the growth.
“It feels like things are going in the right direction,” he said. “Everybody wants to have a trail, wants to have cyclists and other outdoor activities in the community, but it’s hard because it is such a slow process.”
Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah, said the summit can be motivational because representatives from all sectors within the outdoor industry — from fly fishing to climbing to skiing — are gathering to make their voices heard.
“The real benefit of this is starting to see a real groundswell of the outdoor industry coming together to say, ‘Hey, we are this big interest group and not just in Utah, but nationally and globally,’” he said. “We want to see support for public lands, more infrastructure and protection of the places we like to ski, climb and bike.”
Plus, he said, he is learning from other sectors what they have done to grow within Utah. Joe’s Valley, for example, is developing its reputation as a top bouldering destination because of a bouldering festival that partners with the locals. The Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival won the Office of Outdoor Recreation Economic Impact Award at the summit’s award ceremony.
Other recipients of the summit’s awards were the Salt Lake Climber’s Alliance, Goal Zero and Bike Utah.
As the recreation economy expands in Utah, various industries appear to be benefiting, which many hope will lead to more partnerships and support for protection of the lands people recreate on.
Doug Owens, a Utah politician and president of Utah Outdoor Partners, said even businesses that do not think they are impacted by recreation in Utah are, since outdoor opportunities often attract people to move to the state to work.
“Software depends on this, medical devices depend on this, construction depends on this,” he said. “You got a lot of good jobs that are dependent on the outdoors.”
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