Over the past two years, Recreation Northwest has been focused on the economic impact of outdoor recreation in our region and across the state. We commissioned a study, Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County, 2015, prepared by Earth Economics, and were impressed at the findings: Whatcom County recreational businesses employed 3,728 people and realized $508 million in annual revenue. Outdoor enthusiasts spent $705 million on recreation in our county. Of course, it’s no secret that outdoor recreation is a big part of what makes Bellingham a fantastic place to live, work and play.
Two very important aspects of Recreation Northwest’s mission are to promote recreation and bring people together. That’s why we expanded our EXPO this year to include the Outdoor Recreation Summit, a half-day conference that brings together recreation retailers and manufacturers, event and race promoters, policy makers and stewardship organizations to explore and share ways to grow and promote our flourishing recreation economy.
We invited Jon Snyder, the first Policy Advisor on Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, to speak to our Summit attendees, and he graciously agreed to present the opening remarks. We recently spoke with him to learn more about his new role and what it’s all about.
Recreation Northwest: Can you describe your role in the governor’s office?
Jon Snyder: It’s a new position in the policy office. There are several policy areas, from healthcare to education to energy. Now there is one for Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development.
RNW: What is the objective of your role?
Snyder: We’ll be focusing on strategies to create legislation to increase employment in outdoor recreation, as well as increase participation in outdoor recreation.
RNW: As an advisor, are you influencing policy? Recommending actions? Listening and taking our concerns to the governor?
Snyder: All of the above! Right now, I am in outreach mode, listening to the people and getting ideas on how we can improve outdoor employment and participation. There are opportunities to have input on budget and policies, and to support other related legislation. There are also real opportunities outside the legislative process, including discussions to get people to the table who don’t always talk to each other, and get them connected to resources they need.
RNW: What difference will it make to the outdoor enthusiast to have you in this position?
Snyder: I have a seat at the table to be a voice when a policy comes down that has a big impact on outdoor recreation, whether it’s positive or negative. For instance, “Before we act to close down this road, have we thought about backcountry horsemen, hikers, fly fishermen and other users?” That’s where I’ll come in.
RNW: Why should the public care about the outdoor recreation economy in Washington State?
Snyder: Even if you never leave your house and are an “indoor enthusiast,” you should care about outdoor recreation like you care about coffee, airplanes and software. It’s a big contributor to Washington’s economic engine and it benefits all of us.
And if you are a typical Washingtonian, there is some sector of the outdoors that you enjoy. Whether it’s bird watching or hunting and fishing, or clam digging or luxury boating, then you probably care about making sure that those outdoor places are being protected and supported, and that you have access to the things you love.
RNW: What can we do to support you in this role?
Snyder: Just participate! Come talk to me, give me your ideas, continue to be good stewards, and always be open to public participation that is cooperative and inclusive. Everyone has the thing they love, but we often have to share with others. They also have needs. We have to give everyone a chance to do what they want to do. We are great at this here in Washington and are an example for other states.
I was in city politics and I see how policies are connected. One thing I’ve noticed Bellingham has done well is to take control of their water and make sure sprawl doesn’t happen, which protects outdoor recreation land.
We want to make access easier for everyone. We are not just backcountry focused; we are front-country focused too, working to create recreation that’s close to where people live and work and accessible to all, including lower income people.
RNW: Can you give us a preview of what Summit attendees will hear from you?
Snyder: It will be more of a broad-brush overview. I want to just introduce myself, open lines of communication and let everyone know what they do is valued, not just because it’s great, but because a big chunk of our economy would collapse if we didn’t have outdoor recreation. So don’t let anyone tell you you’re not important! Whether you’re a small mom ‘n pop bait and tackle shop or you’re making handmade commuter bike bags and selling them at the farmers market, you’re all contributors to this important sector of our economy.
On a personal note, John enjoys the out of doors and hiking in Washington State. Here he is hiking near Mount Saint Helens.