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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Growing the economy, outdoors"
ALBANY, July 23 -- Did you know:
-- nearly one-half of the nation’s citizens, 141 million people, took part in an outdoor recreation activity last year;
-- Americans made 11.6 billion outdoor outings in 2011, 1.5 billion more than the previous year; and
-- these participants averaged 82 outings annually.
That’s according to a timely new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Outdoor Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established to “inspire and grow future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.” I say timely because it complements New York government’s reinvigorated efforts to encourage outdoor recreation.
In short, the Outdoor Foundation report shows that there’s a lot
of biking, hiking, camping, fishing, paddling, running, bird watching
and other outdoor recreation going on locally, statewide and across the
United States. You can read the full report on www.outdoorfoundation.org.
And let’s make no mistake, it’s big business. Surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, for example, have shown that the 87.5 million Americans who fish, hunt or engage in other wildlife-related recreation have a striking nationwide economic impact, to the tune of $122 billion in revenue and millions of jobs. The impact’s equally noteworthy right here in New York State. New York’s 1.2 million sportsmen and sportswomen, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, generate nearly $2 billion worth of statewide economic activity and directly create 28,000 jobs.
So in keeping with this resurgence of outdoor recreation, efforts are underway in the Legislature to grow and encourage outdoor recreation, not solely for the economic benefit, but equally recognizing that so many of these activities offer a high quality means of exercise, healthier lifestyles, and family fun and recreation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a new law, which I strongly supported, to expand the number of free fishing clinics offered through the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as a way to introduce more and more New Yorkers to recreational angling. New York's sport fishing industry generates an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity annually and supports nearly 17,000 jobs.
Earlier this month, a number of Cuomo administration cabinet members and senior staffers joined more than 500 bicyclists from around the nation for the 14th annual Cycling the Erie Canal event -- a 400-mile bicycling tour along the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany aimed at showing off upstate New York and encouraging the corridor as an economic development engine.
This year’s state budget included the New York Works Fund, the largest infusion in the state’s history of capital dollars dedicated to the enhancement and revitalization of New York’s already impressive system of public parks and trails. Furthermore, many of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, including the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes councils, have identified an outdoor recreation component as part of their long-range strategies for economic revitalization.
It’s a wise investment. After all, a study by the advocacy group Parks & Trails New York has pegged the economic impact of New York’s 178 state parks, 35 historic sites, 1,350 miles of hiking trails and over 8,000 campsites (to say nothing of numerous boat launches, beaches, swimming pools and nature centers) at nearly $2 billion in generated revenue, almost $500 million in employment income and 20,000 jobs. The most recent statistics from the state Office of Parks and Recreation showed increasing attendance at state parks and historic sites – so just imagine the potential impact of the new New York Works Fund.
Finger Lakes State Parks Regional Director Tim Joseph recently said, "When you look at the total (of parks attendance), what you see is pretty steady growth over a five-year period, not really big growth but consistent growth.”
And “consistent growth” has not been an often-heard phrase in any sector of the economy over the past several years.
Each of this year’s moves represents the securing of another plank in the long-term rebuilding of New York State. I’ll briefly note here an administrative action by the Cuomo administration which has recently resolved the withholding of $20 million in federal aid to the state Conservation Fund. This delay has caused great concern over the past few months among many conservation advocates, including myself, but recent reassurances from administration officials that the fund’s sole, dedicated purpose remains fish and wildlife conservation has settled the conflict and ended the delay. That’s great news.
So while we look to keep turning around the upstate New York economy through small business growth, a manufacturing resurgence, and an ongoing foundation of agriculture and tourism, we’re also smart to keep an eye on the outdoors. New York’s unique outdoor experiences and pastimes are sure to entice more and more spending on goods and services provided by local businesses. These expenditures support jobs, generate sales and income taxes, and strengthen the tourism industry.
It’s clear that more and more New Yorkers and Americans are getting outside for a breath of fresh air and a better view – and it’s making for a stronger bottom line.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869