Go outside: New report stresses the importance of outdoor rec

OLYMPIA – Outdoor recreation is critical to the health of residents and the economy of Washington, and should be treated it as an essential government service like transportation and public safety, concludes a draft report issued Tuesday.

Washington should designate outdoor recreation as an industry and establish an agency to promote access to and activities on local, state and federal lands, the report recommends.

In addition, the panel called for securing new sources of revenue to ensure full funding of the state parks system.

Changes must be made in the Discover Pass program so it is no longer a barrier to some would-be enthusiasts on state recreation lands, the report states.

And the 29-member panel also suggests outdoor recreation be included in the core curriculum in public schools.

“Outdoor recreation is not just fun and games. Outdoor recreation is essential to who we are, to our quality of life, and it strengthens our sense of what it means to be a community,” task force members wrote in the report.

“We can and must act now to ensure the stewardship of our parks and public lands, to inspire our children to live a life grounded in experiencing recreation in the great outdoors and to nurture a vital and growing business sector.”

The Washington Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation is collecting public comments on its draft report through Sept. 4. It will deliver its final recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee on Sept. 19.

Outdoor recreation is a major industry in Washington and one often overshadowed in a state dominated by aerospace and technology firms and agriculture.

A report issued in 2013 by the Outdoor Industry Association found $22.5 billion is spent annually in Washington on outdoor recreation. The industry supports 226,600 jobs and generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenues, according to the report.

Inslee directed the task force to come up with ideas for marketing the industry to tourists and funding state parks. He also requested members offer different ways of getting children to spend more time recreating in the outdoors as part of his goal to help stem the spread of childhood obesity.

The panel, which began work in April, held five public meetings around the state. It also received 3,000 comments from residents at the meetings and through an online site.

A panel leader said many of those ideas will get mention on the final product.

“The number one message is that today’s reality and the future potential of the outdoor economy are both so much larger than we recognize and our outdoors is just taken for granted,” said Barb Chamberlain, executive director of Washington Bikes and a co-chairwoman of the panel.

“We have incredible natural capital in this state,” she said. “It is something that can be lost if you don’t pay attention to it.”

Panel members came from the private, public and nonprofit sectors. They included representatives of REI, Outdoor Research, The Wilderness Society, Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club and Washington Tourism Alliance.

The report is posted online at http://rco.wa.gov/boards/TaskForce.shtml.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

More in Local News

A close friendship is lost to fire

An 88-year-old Smokey Point mobile home resident died despite a valiant effort by neighbors.

Jensen Webster sorts through food stuffs at the Sultan High School in Sultan on March 14, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Sultan school children take charge to help their peers

The Sky Valley Youth Coalition has installed pantries at schools so kids can take food home.

Everett woman found dead identified as 21-year-old

There were no obvious signs of trauma on the body of Brianna Leigh Nyer.

State will spend millions on task forces and reports

Here are eight undertakings that will incite possible action by lawmakers in the future.

Two-day event will offer free medical and dental services

The Amen Everett Free Clinic is expected to serve 400 to 500 patients Friday and Sunday.

Everett man admits deadly slashing of 2 Maltby-area women

John Dimitri Kuljis Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

State: Secret deal endangers Marysville Strawberry Festival

The “bizarre” agreement promises a former leader up to $175,000 if the group fails to meet his demands.

Talks to begin on emergency radio system contract

Motorola Solutions Inc. has been chosen to build a replacement for the current 911 radio system.

County Council grills Sound Transit CEO about long timeline

West Seattle and Ballard light-rail extensions will be completed before the main spine to Everett.

Most Read