Governor Phil Scott today issued Executive Order 11-17, establishing the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC), a task force to strengthen and expand Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy. This is the second initiative to use Vermont outdoor recreation as stepping stone for economic growth, following in the footsteps of the Vermont Outdoor Innovation Coalition (VOICe) which was established a year ago (and which Vermont Sports is a member of) by the Vermont Mountain Biking Association and area businesses as a way to unite businesses and non-profits to promotion the outdoor economy centered around trails.
The Governor announced the initiative at a press conference Thursday, which highlighted the decades-long work of land managers, nonprofit recreation and conservation groups, and outdoor recreation businesses to build this important industry.
“Vermont’s landscape of forests, farms and communities – and their associated outdoor recreation opportunities – are a big reason why people choose to visit, live and work in Vermont,” said Gov. Scott. “These assets must be wisely managed and strengthened, not only so we can grow the economic development potential of this sector, but also to sustain and enhance the value of the Vermont brand, the experience of visitors to Vermont, and Vermonters’ quality of life.”
In Vermont, outdoor recreation accounts for 34,000 direct jobs and $2.5 billion in consumer spending. This collaborative will be focused on more strategically coordinating and leveraging outdoor recreational resources and networks to expand the recreation economy, supporting economic growth across Vermont.
Other states such as Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming have begun to focus on outdoor recreation as a primary driver for their economies. In 2015, Colorado appointed renowned mountaineer Luis Benitez, who has summited Mt. Everest six times, to the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. The new position, recognizes Colorado’s outdoor industry of 125,000 workers who earn $4.2 billion in the state. In Colorado, outdoor recreation fuels $13.2 billion in annual consumer spending, and $994 million in local and state taxes.
The immediate focus of VOREC will be to develop a strategy and specific action plan with measurable outcomes, including recommendations to:
• Contribute to efforts to market Vermont’s outdoor recreation values and attributes to effectively foster economic growth;
• Examine and promote laws, policies and initiatives that encourage outdoor recreation business;
• Strengthen stewardship of outdoor recreation resources and the organizations that support them; and
• Encourage, incentivize and guide the development of community-oriented outdoor recreation assets, increasing economic impacts.
Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) Commissioner Michael Snyder will chair this 15-member task force. “I am honored to be asked to lead this effort,” he said. “For it to succeed, we must root our work in the land and the forests, in environmental protection and stewardship, in the inimitable natural, cultural and physical assets that make our state the place we love to live, and the place that people the world over love to visit.”
“We are encouraged by what we are seeing in other states,” continued Commissioner Snyder. “VOREC is poised to succeed because we already have such a strong land ethic, as well as an interconnected network of stakeholders, including an incredible volunteer base. Our outdoor recreation industry partners are ready and willing to engage in this effort. It is truly a watershed moment.”The collaborative will engage the public and other stakeholders in a variety of formats, including public meetings, online surveys and focus groups.
“This small group is really the engine of a much larger machine, which needs our partners to leverage their strengths and passions to co-create world class recreation experiences,” said Jessica Savage, Recreation Program Manager for FPR, and staff for VOREC.
Cover image: Paddling the Connecticut River. Photo courtesy Northern Forest Canoe Trail