State seeks suggestions for boosting outdoor recreation

OLYMPIA — Advertise dog-friendly trails, bolster pheasant hunting and make gold prospecting easier to pursue.

These are among dozens of ideas offered to a task force that is pondering how Washington can generate greater interest in — and money from — outdoor recreation.

State residents are posting their suggestions online at website launched last week by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

What they share at www.engagementoutdoorwashington.com in coming months will help the 17-member panel craft a strategy to better fund state parks, get more young people outdoors and attract more tourists to recreation areas. The plan is due to Gov. Jay Inslee by mid-September.

“People are really busy. This is a great way to get ideas,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the state Recreation and Conservation Office, which provides staff and resources to the task force.

Members are developing a set of questions and will put up one or two new questions each week. A consultant hired to assist the task force will consolidate the comments for task force members.

The first week, the panel asked: “What are the three most important things we can do to make outdoor recreation more desirable and more accessible?”

One respondent urged a pheasant restocking program

“In the ’70s and ’80s pheasant hunting in Washington was a very major participant sport that provided great outdoor opportunities as well as a major economic boost to many small farming communities in our state,” wrote Paul G. “Since that time we have seen a steady decline in both bird population and hunter participation. I believe that a planting program to augment the current wild bird population would result in greater hunter participation and bring home those avid hunters who now are going out of state to find better opportunities.”

Another suggested making it easier to find trails where hikers can bring their dogs. One person opposed commercialism in parks and another called for an end to beach mining.

And one man expressed a desire to roll back regulations that has deterred residents and tourists from searching for gold.

“Small-scale gold prospecting when done in accordance to established guidelines has been proven to not have a negative impact on the habitat,” wrote Dan M.

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

A report last year by the Outdoor Industry Association said that $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.

Members of the task force come from the private, public and nonprofit sectors and do not receive salaries for their participation. They include representatives of REI, Outdoor Research, The Wilderness Society, the Trust for Public Land, the Sierra Club and the Washington Tourism Alliance.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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