SALT LAKE CITY — State officials hope to take promotion of outdoor opportunities in the Beehive State up a notch.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told the Standard-Examiner he will run legislation, at the behest of Gov. Gary Herbert’s office, to create a new Office of Outdoor Recreation as a division of the Department of Economic Development.
Stevenson said specifics are still being finalized, so the bill doesn’t even have a number yet, but he is certain the idea will go over well.
The bill does not call for any additional spending to create the new office, he said.
“It makes a lot of sense. I’m kind of excited to get it,” Stevenson said of the proposal.
The outdoors represent a significant amount of revenue for the state.
Mark Ritchie, CEO of Black Diamond, a global company based in Salt Lake City that makes gear for skiing and climbing enthusiasts, estimates the outdoor recreation market generates $5.8 billion a year in revenue.
State officials give varying numbers but say outdoor recreation represents a large portion of a tourism stream of $6.8 billion generated in the state last year.
It’s money that concerns Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake. She has mixed emotions about the plan, from an initial discussion of how the office would be set up.
She lauds the idea of promoting Utah’s outdoor opportunities and potentially generating more tourism dollars, but questions how the office can be established without calling for additional money to fund it.
“What will this be like? How will it interface?” she said.
Alan Matheson Jr., senior environmental adviser to Herbert, said the bill will eventually have a fiscal note attached to set up staff, but he said it should be small.
He calls outdoor recreation a key pillar to Utah’s economy in the future.
“Outdoor recreation is an important part of our economy, our heritage, our health and our quality of life. It’s part of creating the Utah we all want.”
Local reaction to the additional promotion is positive.
Jay Lowder, public services director for Ogden, said this kind of additional marketing and attention for Ogden can only enhance the city’s future.
“Outdoor recreation is critical to Ogden. Any marketing we can get only benefits us,” he said.
Daniel Turner, outdoor program coordinator for Weber State University, said the impact of outdoor recreation is huge.
Ogden is slowly moving toward becoming a destination spot, he said. “We’re not there yet, but we are up and coming.”
Jim Smith, president of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, said outdoor recreation is a major component in economic development for all of the Top of Utah.
“Ogden is the outdoor capital of the world, and Davis County is home to Antelope Island, which allows a wilderness-type outdoor experience close to the Wasatch Front,” he said.
“The Davis Chamber supports tourism as a driver in economic development. Every dollar we collect from those visiting Utah reduces the tax burden on our citizens.”