Executive Director, Upper Valley Business Alliance Business
During the pandemic, we heard people rediscover nature. It was a safe place to escape our homes when we needed to socialize, and nature provided a break from looking at four walls day in and day out.
Although the sudden surge outside has been accompanied by problems with sourcing sports equipment and crowded paths, many companies and organizations offering outdoor adventures have been busy trying to profitably survive the pandemic.
It will be interesting when our states reopen to see if the sudden new interest in going outside persists, or if the lure of previous indoor activities brings us back to our screens and other pursuits. Regardless, the outdoor economy has always been a key industry for the Twin States and certainly contributes to the Upper Valley’s economy.
If you haven’t heard the term “outdoor economy”, let’s define it. The outdoor economy refers to all income generated from outdoor recreation. It covers a wide range of activities from hiking as well
Mountain biking, water sports and outdoor enjoyment on ATVs, snowmobiles or motorcycles. Hunting and fishing contribute to the outdoor economy, as do leaf-gazing, bird-watching, and gardening.
Equipment manufacturers, construction and government agencies in support of outdoor activities are also included. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that Americans spend over $ 887 billion annually on outdoor recreational activities – more than drugs and fuel combined.
In New Hampshire, the outdoor economy accounts for $ 2.8 billion – or 3.2% – of the state’s economy and more than 37,000 jobs. Vermont has annual sales of $ 1.8 billion from outdoor activities and employs more than 19,000 people in the industry.
Infrastructures like multipurpose walkways, railways, and bike paths have been shown to have tremendous benefits to the local economy when located in a city or town – including increasing property value. Not only do the bike shops benefit from this, restaurants and shops near the paths also benefit. Our communities’ investments in new infrastructure to promote outdoor recreation – like the Lebanon Downtown Tunnel, which will connect the Northern Rail Trail to the Mascoma Greenway – make good business sense considering the potential revenue for local businesses.
In the Upper Valley we have a growing sector of companies and organizations that thrive on the outdoor economy. During the pandemic, new companies have emerged that offer bike tours, outdoor adventures or promote tourism. Sales of outdoor equipment like e-bikes have exploded. And while supply chain issues have made it harder to buy new outdoor gear, the business of repairing bicycles and other gear is booming.
The sudden increase in popularity of outdoor recreational activities has a downside. Those who manage hiking trails or protected areas and natural resources see deterioration due to overuse or lack of care by outside enthusiasts. Road erosion, litter on the wayside or overflowing porta potties cause long-term environmental impacts as well as the experience for all users. When such a large part of our economy depends on the sustainability of our natural resources, it really is up to all of us to obey the rules, package trash, leave no trace and respect paths that may be blocked to keep them away from Violations can recover feet.
So enjoy the summer weather, get out into nature and experience everything that the Obertal has to offer outdoors. This can only help your neighbor’s business and the local economy.