The New Hampshire legislature is considering a bill that would support continued growth in the state’s outdoor recreation industry, which currently generates $8.7 billion in annual consumer spending, secures more than $528 million in state and local tax revenue, and supports 79,000 local jobs.
Center President Rob Riley testified in support of SB 234 on Feb. 20 in front of NH Senate members (listen to a follow-up interview with Rob on NH Public Radio.) pointing out, “Today, recreation is central to many Northern Forest communities as a community economic development strategy for providing employment and attracting both visitors and new residents.”
Riley said the new office would provide the Department of Business and Economic Affairs with a critical tool to help enhance New Hampshire’s economic and community vitality. Taylor Caswell, commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs and others also spoke in favor of the bill.
Across states lines, neighboring Maine and Vermont are already beginning to implement coordinated outdoor economy initiatives. Carolann Ouellette leads Maine’s newly established Office of Outdoor Recreation, and the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) is facilitated by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. The mission of each group is to grow its state’s outdoor economy by supporting destination development efforts and deepening community connections.
The idea for creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation in NH surfaced at a symposium on the region’s recreation economy cohosted by the Center in November, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation and the Northern Border Regional Commission last November.
Throughout the symposium, its 170 attendees from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York discussed shared challenges and opportunities. During breakout sessions by state, participants developed a set of recommendations to advance the outdoor recreation sector and increase regional collaboration. After learning about state-led efforts underway in Maine and Vermont, the group strongly prioritized establishing an outdoor recreation office with support from the New Hampshire government.
People are drawn to the beauty of New Hampshire, evidenced by out of state plates traveling to the White Mountains, North Country and other areas year-round. The creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development would help reinforce New Hampshire’s outstanding assets in a competitive outdoor industry economy.