Outdoor recreation alone added $9.5 billion in value to Massachusetts’ economy, according to a 2021 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report. The most popular activities include boating, fishing, hunting, RVing and camping.
Staff Report from the Greenfield Reporter
With tourism and recreation driving a significant portion of Massachusetts’ Franklin County’s economy, local legislators and stakeholders are celebrating the creation of the Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation, which is tasked with growing the state’s recreational opportunities.
Working within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Office of Outdoor Recreation will focus on coordinating outdoor recreation policy, identifying funding opportunities for programs, enhancing public access, supporting the recreation economy, and promoting Massachusetts as a great place to work in or enjoy outdoor recreation. The office will work with the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, among others.
The creation of the office, driven by former state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, was praised by local officials because it signaled a state investment in western Massachusetts’ natural resources.
“The outdoor recreation economy is an increasingly large industry and western Massachusetts is well placed to benefit,” Hinds said in a statement. “We have the natural resources and we are easily accessible from major population centers. I hope this office drives growth for this sector and for jobs in western Massachusetts.”
With the establishment of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Massachusetts joins 17 other states across the country that have similar offices.
Tourism, including outdoor recreation opportunities, is a driving force in Franklin County’s economy with tourists spending $67.5 million in 2019, according to a state Office of Travel and Tourism report. Tourism numbers were reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane said in a statement that having an Office of Outdoor Recreation will help grow a “critical industry” for the region.
“We know that outdoor recreation creates healthier communities and healthier economies,” Deane said. “Massachusetts’ outdoor recreation economy generates millions in consumer spending each year, which is especially important for our rural communities.”
Outdoor recreation alone added $9.5 billion in value to the state’s economy, according to a 2021 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report. The outdoor recreation economy grew by 24% from 2020 to 2021, as people sought outdoor recreational opportunities during the pandemic. The most popular activities include boating, fishing, hunting, RVing and camping.
“We’re fortunate in the commonwealth to have such a diverse selection of recreational activities,” state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, said in a statement. “Our natural resources attract visitors, as well as offer our citizens places that they can use to exercise, relax or recharge.”