Tourism is big business in Clark County
With winter and spring behind and summer starting to shine, tourism dollars are about to flow in abundance into north Clark County’s due to its bountiful outdoor attractions.
The development and maintenance of Clark County wildlife and recreation attractions pulls in $1.2 billion in tourism spending annually, and not only showcases the natural beauty of southwest Washington, but brings dollars to rural areas such as north Clark County.
“Outdoor recreation is a major economic engine in our state. In Clark County alone, it is responsible for over $1.2 billion in annual consumer spending and supports over 9,200 jobs,” said Andrea McNamara Doyle, executive director of the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition. “It is also one of the largest market drivers for moving income from urban areas to more rural parts of Washington like northern Clark County.”
Doyle’s numbers are based from the report “Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State” commissioned by the state Legislature.
Doyle highlights local areas such as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Trail, Salmon Creek Park and Trail and the Lewis River Greenway.
The Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition was founded in 1989 and is a private-public partnership between 280 corporate and nonprofit partners advocating public funding of parks, trails, wildlife habitat and working farms and forests. Funded by the state Legislature, the Coalition uses matching funds and since it was formed, has brought in $38.9 million for 90 projects across Clark County.
“A great example of how the state’s Wildlife & Recreation program helps the outdoor economy bridge urban and rural communities is through the financial support it has provided for at least a half dozen of the parks, trails, and natural areas that make up the beautiful 70-mile North Clark County Scenic Route,” Doyle said. “Parks in La Center, Mud Lake, Whipple Creek, Lucia and Moulton Falls, as well as the Lewis River Trail — which I had the pleasure of hiking last month — all help attract visitors from outside the local area.”
Statewide, outdoor recreation brings in $21.6 billion dollars in annual spending and provides for about 200,000 jobs. For Washingtonians, the outdoors is a way of life. On average, each citizen in this state spends 56 days a year enjoying the great outdoors, totalling 446 million participant days. Water recreation tops the list, followed by sports tournaments and races and recreation on private lands (such as golf courses, skiing and hunting), according to the legislative report.
In Clark County, tourism is a growth industry. A new report by Dean Runyan Associates out of Portland, states Clark County tourism has grown every year for the past six years, rising 5.1 percent from 2014 to 2015. Vancouver leads the way for the county.
“Vancouver has steadily built up an impressive array of new developments and vibrant attractions both in the downtown core and on the eastside,” said Kim Bennett, president and CEO of Visit Vancouver USA. “We anticipate steady tourism growth in 2016 and beyond as we continue to open up our waterfront with new and exciting spaces for visitors to explore.”
As an example, a new National Park Service report shows that 818,672 people visited Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 2015, spending $4.69 million in communities nearby the park. That translates into 792 jobs in the area with a total economic benefit of $67.5 million.
“Fort Vancouver National Historic Site welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Tracy Fortmann. “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”