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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 The
organization’s executive director said, “This report shows that Americans are getting up and getting outside – a great trend for the outdoor community and the country.”

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

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

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
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869