LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - There's big bucks in outdoor recreation for the state of Arkansas, according to a new report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).
The report tallies what people spend on outdoor gear and clothing, guide services and travel expenses, and says it totals $10 billion a year in Arkansas.
Tom McKinney, conservation chairman for the Sierra Club Arkansas chapter, says that figure is probably conservative. He thinks the state park system is one of the attractions, and praises a constitutional amendment passed more than a decade ago that gives the state's outdoor agencies a steady revenue stream.
"That is the major reason that Arkansas has not had to really cut back in its outdoor resources for the public," he says. "And a lot of folks don't realize that - that some of the surrounding states have had major problems even keeping parks open."
McKinney says the Sierra Club wishes more of the recreation-tax revenue would be used to protect additional public land rather than maintaining what the state already has. The report says outdoor recreation brings in almost $700 million a year in state and local tax revenue.
The OIA report also says outdoor recreation directly generates more than 125,000 jobs in Arkansas that pay almost $3 billion a year in wages.
Debbie Doss, who chairs the Arkansas Canoe Club, says she hopes the report boosts efforts to clean up air and water, and prompts more people to take the outdoor industry seriously.
"I think most people see agriculture and the petroleum industries as being big drivers for the economy," says Doss. "But I don't think a lot of people realize what a big deal recreation and tourism is."
The report says nationally, outdoor recreation employs more people than the education, construction, transportation or oil and gas industries.
(Source: Chris Thomas/Arkansas News Service)