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Cumberland Valley’s Outdoor Recreation Assets Important to Economy & Quality of Life

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the significance of outdoor recreation to our health and well-being while also shining a light on the complex interconnectedness of outdoor recreation to land and natural resource management, tourism and hospitality, transportation, and manufacturing, among other industries.

The Commonwealth has a dynamic and vibrant outdoor recreation economy – from fly-fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, biking, and everything in between – and Cumberland Valley’s location in the south-central portion of the state highlights the best of these outdoor recreation assets.

These outdoor attractions are deeply rooted in the communities in which they are located. Therefore, it is crucial for private citizens and public officials from all levels of government to build connections and leverage these assets to produce the best return on investment for everyone involved.

Economic Impact

Pennsylvania is one of the largest outdoor recreation economies in the nation. An article from February 2021 in The Bay Journal reported that Pennsylvania received $13 billion in revenue from outdoor recreation in 2019, ranking 6th in the nation, according to a study by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The amount included money spent on travel, accommodations, food, retail sales, and employment-related to manufacturing outdoor products in each state.

The 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Outdoor Recreation Plan noted that the outdoor recreation industry in Pennsylvania generates:

  • $29.1 billion in consumer spending annually
  • 251,000 direct jobs
  • $8.6 billion in wages and salaries
  • $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue

The state’s recreational amenities are also a big draw for new businesses and those seeking to relocate. Companies want to be in a state with the highest possible quality of life and one that offers plenty of opportunities for employees to be happy and healthy. Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreational assets are a huge part of that equation.

Health & Wellness

Taking time to unplug and connect with nature is vitally important to creating a healthy population. UPMC reports five benefits of outdoor exercise and recreation:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved physical health
  • Strengthened social connections

Easy access to outdoor recreation assets like walking and biking networks, such as the Carlisle Borough Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Network, encourages healthy behavior in communities. In the Pennsylvania Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan 2020-2024, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources notes that they are working to provide a trail within 10 minutes of every Pennsylvanian.

Cumberland Valley

The open spaces (including preserved farmland) of Cumberland Valley positively impact tourism, property value, public health, stormwater management, and air and water quality. The serene and stunning landscape features 54,000 acres of protected parks and natural areas which includes the following natural resources:

  • Global Important Bird Area along the Kittatinny Ridge
  • 2 state forests: Michaux State Forest, Tuscarora State Forest
  • 3 state parks: Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, Colonel Denning State Park, Pine Grove Furnace State Park
  • 4 state game lands
  • 140+ municipal parks
  • 220+ miles of trails
  • 2 Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers, 3 official water trails
  • 45 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.)

A 2015 study by the Audubon Society in conjunction with PA DCNR and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimated that these open spaces provided “natural system services and recreational and property-value benefits that exceed an estimated $1 billion annually.” That amount included $521.5 million in annual revenue generated from outdoor recreational opportunities such as bird watching, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, hunting, and bicycling.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Natural Resources recently appointed Nathan Reigner as the state’s first Director of Outdoor Recreation and CAEDC looks forward to working with Nathan to amplify the importance of outdoor recreation to economic growth and quality of life in Cumberland Valley and throughout the state.

(photo credit: Adventure Explorations, Boiling Springs)

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