Whatcom Recreation Economy Study Released by Recreation Northwest

Contact Information:
Todd Elsworth, Executive Director
Recreation Northwest


Report: Outdoor Recreation Generates $705 Million in Annual Spending in Whatcom County

Study of outdoor recreation’s economic impact in Whatcom County
also reveals creation of over 6,500 jobs.

BELLINGHAM, WA, April 21, 2015—Recreation Northwest, Whatcom County, City of Bellingham, Port of Bellingham and Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism announce the findings of a groundbreaking new study: The Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County, Washington.

The study, conducted by Earth Economics, builds on a statewide Recreation Economic Impact study commissioned by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. For Whatcom County, Earth Economics studied economic contributions in three areas: outdoor recreation expenditures, recreation businesses and ecosystems services in recreational lands.

RecSpendingThe study revealed that each year, residents and visitors spend $705 million on outdoor recreation in Whatcom County, ranking it eighth-highest in the state for such expenditures. This spending supports a total of 6,502 jobs. Whatcom County boasts a total of 14 million participant days in outdoor recreation, with residents averaging 71.8 participant days一well above the state average of 59 days per year.

“Recreation is critical to Bellingham and Whatcom County,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. “Recreational opportunities not only highlight our beautiful region, but they also help create jobs, attract talented professionals and build our regional reputation as a healthy place to live, work and play.”    

Total Whatcom County expenditures were highest for recreation in public waters, with approximately $132 million in annual spending throughout the county. “Whatcom County provides easy access to some of the best cruising waters in the world,” said Rob Fix, Executive Director at the Port of Bellingham. “The Port continues to have strong demand for marina slips, and the marine-trades businesses that support recreational boaters are thriving.”

Two hundred seventy-nine recreation-related business were identified in Whatcom County, including retailers, manufacturers, service providers and more, with total 2014 revenue of $508 million, supporting 3,728 jobs. Gear wholesalers, recreational boat builders and boat dealers are the top three sectors, according to annual sales. Between direct, indirect and induced effects of employment, labor income, value added and output, Whatcom County recreation businesses have a $389 million total impact.

Added Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws, “Whatcom County’s abundant natural beauty is a huge draw for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. This study draws the positive correlation between our scenic landscape and its impact on local businesses and our overall economy.”

“Bellingham and Whatcom County have long enjoyed a strong reputation as an outdoor recreation destination,” said April Claxton, Executive Manager of Recreation Northwest. “The findings of this study confirm recreation’s economic impact, and will hopefully inspire us all to protect our beautiful mountains, waters and forests.”

The Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County:

Download the Full Report

Download the Full Report

Download the Factsheet

Download the Factsheet


About Recreation Northwest

Recreation Northwest is a Bellingham, Washington based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation, and bringing people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. Through partnerships with local businesses and organizations, we work to raise awareness of our public green spaces and their inhabitants, including one of the Northwest’s most revered symbols—the salmon. Recreation Northwest produces Bellingham Traverse; the Quest Adventure Races; the Race Directors Summit; and the Recreation Northwest EXPO. Learn more at


About Earth Economics

Earth Economics is an independent, non-partisan non-profit dedicated to demonstrating the true value of natural assets through economic analysis, policy recommendations and tools that are robust, science-based and ecologically sound.  Working with leading ecologists, economists and modelers, we serve a large circle of non-profits, government agencies, policy makers, businesses, and multi-lateral organizations with research, reports, presentations, workshops and investigations. Our goal is to positively transform regional, national and international economics, and asset accounting systems, and to help communities move towards an approach that is both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.


Washington Recreation and Conservation Office Study, 2015:

Economic Benefits of Outdoor Recreation in Washington Fact Sheet

Economic Benefits of Outdoor Recreation in Washington full report


As co-founder and executive director of Recreation Northwest, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email