OPINION: A lesson on the outdoor economy
In the Wenatchee Valley, we take it for granted that Washingtonians rely on our natural surroundings both for our quality of life and for building strong businesses. It is easy to accept as a given because we live in such a scenic area, but it is gratifying to see a governor in Olympia taking note as well.
Gov. Jay Inslee recently launched a blue-ribbon task force on outdoor recreation that will provide such a reminder, transforming the statewide conversation around this critical industry. Thanks, Governor, for bringing this economic conversation down to earth.
As a real estate broker, our state’s public lands are good for my business because they attract buyers.
Houses near public lands tend to have higher values. In my experience, people pay top dollar for access to amenities like trailheads near Forest Service lands or the Wenatchee Foothills.
An added benefit of higher home values means the public school system receives more revenue from property taxes and families’ assets are protected for the future when it is time to sell.
Funding for the outdoors preserves the Wenatchee Valley’s character, protects the scenic beauty that attracts visitors who support locally owned businesses, and ensures families from Leavenworth to Wenatchee have access to the places they love.
The legacy of our land is apparent to anyone who looks to the hills. If not for past funding, the public could have forever been locked out of places like Saddle Rock and Peshastin Pinnacles.
With the recent completion of the Wenatchee Foothills campaign, the community has made a significant investment in one of our beloved places. This area’s scenic beauty and accessible trails will act as an economic engine and natural respite.
Whether you live in Wenatchee or Olympia, are a homeowner or a renter, it is obvious we all benefit from conservation for the great outdoors.
Statewide, Washingtonians spend $22.5 billion each year on outdoor recreation, supporting 227,000 jobs according to the Outdoor Industry Association. And that does not include the $1.6 billion spent annually by hunters and anglers reported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
The natural beauty of our valley is essential to our sense of community and our way of life in addition to being one of our greatest economic assets.
We cannot continue to view funding for the outdoors as a luxury, something that is just nice to have when the coffers are full. We can play a key role in helping Gov. Inslee shift that thinking, making the outdoors akin to essential infrastructure, like roads and wastewater treatment.
Our population in Washington will continue to expand and the demand for easy access to the outdoors will only grow. We can only hope that, one day, every family will have access to a park or trail in their neighborhood.
It is not an exaggeration to say the Wenatchee Valley would look nothing like it does today — geographically, culturally, or economically — if past generations had not wisely invested in the outdoors.
We are forever grateful — and forever in their debt.
The governor’s renewed focus in Olympia will draw on the knowledge of people across the state to build on that legacy and act as an essential step toward protecting these historic investments and create a prosperous future for our children.
Geordie Romer makes his home in Cashmere.