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Health of Recreation
Health of Outdoor Recreation


The information in this article was developed for the American Recreation Coalition, to help our political leaders and Federal Agencies to better understand the recreation needs of Americans. The findings are enlightening.

There are 37 recreational activities that have been tracked by the Recreation Round Table and Roper-Starch Worldwide (an internationally recognized survey/polling agency). The recreation activities of Americans have been tracked now for 10 years and, with 10 years of history, the findings are valid and depict trends in society that are important for recreationists and others involved in the travel and outdoor recreation business.

Twenty of the 37 activities that are tracked showed an increased level of participation by Americans. The sharpest climbs were reported in Wildlife Viewing and Hiking.

Even though the Recreation Activity increased, it was determined that only 78% of all Americans take part in an outdoor recreation activity and only 70% of us have an outdoor activity that we participate in on a monthly basis. This is a noticeable drop in outdoor recreation for the year 2000-2001 compared to previous years.

The recreational participation rate of Americans aged 18-29 is nearly the same as those in the 30-44 year old age bracket. This is an important statistic because historically individuals in the age bracket of 18-29 are much more active outdoor recreationists than older age groups. If those born between 1972 and 1982 continue to stay indoors and live a noticeably less active life, their lifestyles will impact not only on their health but on businesses and government serving their needs.

Decline in recreation participation is very high among Internet users, which goes hand in hand with the previous point showing a rather low level of participation for the 18-29 year olds. There was a 17% drop in outdoor recreation by Internet users in just two years.

Most Americans perceive outdoor recreation activity quality, to be the same as previous years. Midwesterners and Southerners in particular see very positive trends while Westerners do not feel that opportunities are getting better. Westerners feel that much of their outdoor activity is being terminated and or limited by an overbearing Federal Government Bureaucracy that owns and controls over 70% of the landmass of most western states.

More than 50% of all outdoor recreationists have visited a Federal Recreation site during the past two years. Approximately 50% of them report a willingness to pay additional money to improve their visit.

Receptivity to higher fees for recreation was strongest among those with family incomes of $75,000 or more annually.

The recreation industry as a whole continues to enjoy a positive public perception. Over 60% of the public accord the recreational industry efforts a very well done mark.

Of those Americans surveyed, the median age was 43 years old.

Individuals believe that recreation policies are determined by actions of the Congress and the political appointees overseeing our land (i.e.: the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.) Most outdoor recreationists understand that politics count.

Overall, 38% of all outdoor recreationists describe themselves as Democrats, 26% as Republicans and 32% as Independent.

Interestingly, Downhill Skiers label themselves as 47% Republican vs. 20% Democrats. Hunters label themselves as 38% Republican vs. 19% Democrat. Snowmobilers label themselves as 35% Republican vs. 23% Democrat.

The majority of recreationists perceive little to no change in outdoor recreation activity quality, however, approximately one in five off-road bicyclists view changes as negative. This was easily the highest level of dissatisfaction of any of the participants and highlights how the closing of access to bicyclists has had a negative impact on that sport. It should be noted that the Wilderness Society, which continues to promote the expansion of designated Wilderness areas across the United States, understands that bicycles are not allowed in Wilderness areas. Those of us in the Snowmobile industry certainly realize that we cannot snowmobile in a designated Wilderness area.

Support of higher fees for recreation was strong among those with family incomes of $75,000 or more. However, the unwillingness to pay more for outdoor recreation has doubled in the last three years and we now see that about 46% of Americans support of additional fees for public land use is low.

Outdoor recreation of most any type is healthy and good for Americans. Healthy lands and responsible use of those lands results in a strong, healthy people. It is our job to promote responsible outdoor recreation for ourselves, our family and our friends.



Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association
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