Study Being Considered for Impact of Recreation on State’s Economy

Recreational trails and parks may be Alabama’s silent industry, but it might take some shouting to get that message out.

That megaphone could come in a form of a study that trail supporters are proposing to detail the impact that recreation has on the state’s economy. Members of the Alabama Trails Commission and advisory members discussed the study July 13 in a meeting at the Alabama Center for Commerce. The commission was formed to promote recreational trails of all types in Alabama.

“One of the problems that we have is convincing people, including many elected officials, that recreation is much more than fun and games,” said Rob Grant, ADECA’s Recreational Programs manager. “It is an economic engine provides jobs and brings money into a community. This is particularly important in rural areas where they are not likely to attract a Hyundai or Kia plant.”

Nisa Miranda, director of the University Center for Economic Development at the University of Alabama, agreed that unique trails and recreation seem to have the potential to draw people from other states and the impact could mean tremendous benefits and economic boosts for some of Alabama’s poorer counties.

“Trails are a wonderful opportunity (for economic development),” Nisa said. “It’s a way to link places and to provide some economic development to places that are really struggling.”

Jim Felder, executive director of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, said the creation of that group seems to be a case in point. Felder said when the organization began, only eight businesses existed along Alabama’s rivers and major creeks to rent canoes and kayaks. Since the organization began sponsoring river ventures and promoting river recreation, there are now 21.

Rob said studies in other states point to the connection between trails, tourism and the overall economic impact.

“We can pull together anecdotal information from other states, but it won’t have the same impact in Alabama that a study conducted in our state would,” Rob said.

Rob said the benefits of the study could result in more support for the development of trails from state and local governments and private businesses and industries.

He said it could also be used to encourage the creation of local businesses ranging from bed-and-breakfast houses and restaurants to recreation outfitters who sell bicycles, hiking equipment or off-road motorized vehicles.

By Jim Plott, CID

 

 

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About Trail Boss

Working on Five Mile Creek Greenway since 2006.

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