Mapping Economic Activity of Outdoor Recreation Participants in the Pacific Northwest

Authors: Corrine Armistead*, Earth Economics
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Outdoor Recreation, Economic Contribution
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As passive recreation increases and budgets for trail repairs and visitor facilities stagnate, public land recreation managers need new tools to demonstrate the value of maintaining access to and quality of public recreation lands. While not a singular solution, modelling outdoor recreation related spending can help link what happens on and to public lands with the economic health of the region. Typically, the economic contribution – the injection and circulation of money in a local economy – of outdoor recreation participants is assigned evenly across counties within a distance of park boundaries. This allocation method is far from the reality of spending patterns, where visitors follow confined transportation arteries to specific park entrances. This paper presents an approach to redistribute visitor spending, thereby spatially refining the economic contribution of outdoor recreation. Using publicly available transportation, business, and visitor survey data, areas of impact are mapped not by straight-line boundary buffers but instead through a combination of travel routes and opportunities to spend along access corridors. Through application to National Forests and National Parks in Washington and Oregon, this paper demonstrates the benefits of refining spatial inputs and the difference between approaches. Improved insight into the ties between public lands and the gateway communities that surround them can support land managers and the public in making informed decisions on outdoor recreation and land use in general.

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