Business & Economy

Task force to draw attention to outdoor recreation in Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott

Gov. Phil Scott announces the creation of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative on Thursday. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

[W]ATERBURY CENTER — Gov. Phil Scott created a task force Thursday in an effort to bolster economic activity around outdoor recreation in Vermont.

With an executive order, Scott created the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, a 15-member panel of state officials, business owners and leaders of nonprofits.

As Scott signed the order on a sunny morning in Waterbury Center State Park, young children played nearby in the shallows of Waterbury Reservoir.

“In this setting we are reminded that Vermont’s landscape of forests, farms and communities and their associated outdoor recreation opportunities are a big reason why people choose to live, visit and work in Vermont,” he said.

According to the governor, there are about 34,000 jobs in outdoor recreation in Vermont, and the sector brings in about $2.5 billion annually in consumer spending.

The group will look at how to nourish the outdoor recreation economy and will offer the governor advice on how to market Vermont’s resources, recommend potential legislation and more.

Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Michael Snyder will lead the task force.

“Vermont’s long tradition of vigorous outdoor activity, combined with this phenomenal stunning landscape of ours, of farms, of forests, of human communities, is indeed a really powerful combination,” Snyder said.

One area the group may look to is backcountry skiing, which Snyder said is the fastest growing sector in snow sports. Vermont has an opportunity to direct backcountry skiers to terrain outside of the ski resort towns that drive the bulk of winter business.

Mountain biking trail networks also offer a chance to bring in enthusiasts.

Snyder called Vermont a “stunning, world-class playground.”

“And we see tremendous opportunity to do more with it,” he said.

The outdoor recreation initiative comes shortly after the Department of Tourism and Marketing launched a campaign to highlight each of Vermont’s 251 towns. The department’s commissioner, Wendy Knight, said the effort is intended to promote towns to potential visitors from out-of-state, as well as to Vermonters looking for a local adventure.

“We’re really looking to market the state much more holistically as a place to visit, live, work and play,” Knight said.

Knight was among those on hand to celebrate the executive order Thursday. In promoting some towns, the initiative may look to draw attention to their natural features, she said.

“Every town has its unique characteristics,” she said. “Some towns are more outdoors-oriented, some towns are more culturally oriented.”

Drew Simmons, of Pale Morning Media, a Waitsfield-based communications agency focused on the outdoor industry, said there is increasing interest in a range of outdoor sports across the country. A member of the outdoor business community in Vermont, he said he sees an opportunity for the state.

Americans spend more on cycling and skateboarding equipment than they do on video games, he said at the news conference.

He added that other states, many in the western part of the country, have increased their efforts to develop the economy around outdoor recreation recently. An emphasis on the natural world is “a natural fit for Vermont,” he said.

“In Vermont, we have the talent, the temperament and the terrain,” Simmons said.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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