Outdoor recreation and ecotourism have made a recent surge in popularity, with guide companies seeing a definite growth in their customer base, even with the recession. Coupled with the fact that many cities and countries are opting to provide more outdoor opportunities to tourists and their citizens (this unfortunately, has been affected by the economy), we have seen an increase in the number of parks in cities, State Parks, and National Parks. However, many opponents of outdoor recreation expenditures view the spending as frivolous and unnecessary. I am here to say that the reality of the situation is quite the opposite, we need to actually increase our spending in the area because it brings more money into the community, it is cheap for users, and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle.
The old adage," You have to spend money to make money" is true when one looks at the economy of a city or country in relation to its outdoor recreation opportunities. Now I know you are biting your tongue not to tell me what an idiot I am, but you must first examine the economic multiplier effect (how an economic action ripples through the economy). Lets start out with an example, lets call it Recville and Recville has an economy that is stagnating and has trouble attracting new business; however, let us note that Recville doesn't have any outdoor recreation to offer, but has plenty of public land and terrain at their disposal. Since they are desperate they decide to listen to City Manager Clinton who wants to turn some of their public land into a State Park that will offer camping, mountain biking, and kayaking. Upon completion, Recville is now able to offer their citizens something to do in their free time that won't cost them much, which in turn creates happier citizens and therefore happier employees. Recville now has a bone they can use to entice new business growth and as more businesses come in, the more jobs are available and the more money is put into the economy, creating a city with a growing economy and happy citizens. Great real life examples are cities such as Las Vegas, Denver, and Salt Lake City, all of which are renown for their outdoor recreation opportunities and all of which are listed in the top ten on just about any list of top cities in the U.S.
Right now according to the in the U.S. more than one-third of adults and more than fifteen percent of children are considered obese (CDC), a problem which leads to all kinds of complications later in life such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This is a very real problem and one not soon to go away in an era of fast-food and video games (although both of those sectors are beginning to market healthier options to be fair). The solution is easy, get people outside, get them moving around, and show them that it is far more fun out in the sun, than inside with artificial light and artificial food. I have no real solution on how to get people outside, as we can't force them (can't be violating Constitutional Rights), but if we start educating children on the importance of staying active and eating healthy, much as we educate them in History or English (then again maybe a new approach is needed for that too?!) we might be able to see a real change in the United States, one in which the population is not only active and healthy, but as a result happier.
Check out Oh to be Young and Poor for tips on cheap fun outdoors.