Governor’s task force prioritizes outdoors for now and for grandkids

February 28, 2014


In an announcement earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee released plans to formally recognize and elevate an under appreciated economic sector: the outdoor recreation economy.

The Governor announced his executive order to create a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation in front of a group of businesses, nonprofits and public agencies as part of an event with many of the region’s outdoor recreation and conservation leaders at the offices of the Department of Natural Resources on February 13.

Inslee spoke about watching his grandson turn over rocks on a beach near Kitsap, admiring the crawly things nature has to offer. He encouraged everyone to take a minute to look at the outdoors with a child’s eyes and envisioned a future where all kids can get outside to enjoy that same sense of wonder.

“Washington’s lands that created our evergreen identity have an unparalleled effect on our culture and our economy. With a strong public and private partnership, we can achieve the same prestige places like Colorado and Utah already have for their lands,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “The Coalition is grateful to Governor Inslee for making the outdoors a top priority.”

Outdoor recreation directly supports 227,000 jobs, and consumers generate $22.5 billion in annual spending on things like equipment, lodging and apparel. In spite of the strong data, funding for parks, trails and other recreation lands are still viewed as a “nice to have” instead of “must have” amenities.

“Outdoor recreation is an under appreciated part of our economy,” Inslee said in a press release. “We need to look at ways that we can support and expand this industry to create jobs, increase economic opportunity and support our rural communities.”   

The 15-member task force will develop a strategic plan and give policy recommendations on how to strengthen outdoor tourism and job creation, promote outdoor recreation, and develop long-term funding sources for state-owned recreation lands and facilities.

“This isn’t just about Washington’s economy. This is also about a generational legacy in our state,” said Inslee “We need to leave a Washington that allows every single one of us – young or old – to experience, play and relax in some of the most beautiful trails, parks and lakes in the world. I know we can find a way forward to making sure Washington’s beautiful outdoor spaces are promoted and preserved for generations to come.”

Public hearings will be held across the state and the task force will release its findings to the legislature in September, according to the Governor’s office.

With the variety of stunning outdoor opportunities, Washington should be a national leader in preserving our natural setting and cultivating the benefits outdoor recreation offers.    

Photo Courtesy of Washington State Legislative Support Services