information in this article was developed for the American Recreation Coalition,
to help our political leaders and Federal Agencies to better understand the
recreation needs of Americans. The findings are enlightening.
There are 37 recreational activities that have been tracked by
the Recreation Round Table and Roper-Starch Worldwide (an internationally
recognized survey/polling agency). The recreation activities of Americans have
been tracked now for 10 years and, with 10 years of history, the findings are
valid and depict trends in society that are important for recreationists and
others involved in the travel and outdoor recreation business.
Twenty of the 37 activities that are tracked showed an increased
level of participation by Americans. The sharpest climbs were reported in
Wildlife Viewing and Hiking.
Even though the Recreation Activity increased, it was determined
that only 78% of all Americans take part in an outdoor recreation activity and
only 70% of us have an outdoor activity that we participate in on a monthly
basis. This is a noticeable drop in outdoor recreation for the year 2000-2001
compared to previous years.
The recreational participation rate of Americans aged 18-29 is
nearly the same as those in the 30-44 year old age bracket. This is an important
statistic because historically individuals in the age bracket of 18-29 are much
more active outdoor recreationists than older age groups. If those born between
1972 and 1982 continue to stay indoors and live a noticeably less active life,
their lifestyles will impact not only on their health but on businesses and
government serving their needs.
Decline in recreation participation is very high among Internet
users, which goes hand in hand with the previous point showing a rather low
level of participation for the 18-29 year olds. There was a 17% drop in outdoor
recreation by Internet users in just two years.
Most Americans perceive outdoor recreation activity quality, to
be the same as previous years. Midwesterners and Southerners in particular see
very positive trends while Westerners do not feel that opportunities are getting
better. Westerners feel that much of their outdoor activity is being terminated
and or limited by an overbearing Federal Government Bureaucracy that owns and
controls over 70% of the landmass of most western states.
More than 50% of all outdoor recreationists have visited a
Federal Recreation site during the past two years. Approximately 50% of them
report a willingness to pay additional money to improve their visit.
Receptivity to higher fees for recreation was strongest among
those with family incomes of $75,000 or more annually.
The recreation industry as a whole continues to enjoy a positive
public perception. Over 60% of the public accord the recreational industry
efforts a very well done mark.
Of those Americans surveyed, the median age was 43 years old.
Individuals believe that recreation policies are determined by
actions of the Congress and the political appointees overseeing our land (i.e.:
the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.) Most
outdoor recreationists understand that politics count.
Overall, 38% of all outdoor recreationists describe themselves
as Democrats, 26% as Republicans and 32% as Independent.
Interestingly, Downhill Skiers label themselves as 47%
Republican vs. 20% Democrats. Hunters label themselves as 38% Republican vs. 19%
Democrat. Snowmobilers label themselves as 35% Republican vs. 23% Democrat.
The majority of recreationists perceive little to no change in
outdoor recreation activity quality, however, approximately one in five off-road
bicyclists view changes as negative. This was easily the highest level of
dissatisfaction of any of the participants and highlights how the closing of
access to bicyclists has had a negative impact on that sport. It should be noted
that the Wilderness Society, which continues to promote the expansion of
designated Wilderness areas across the United States, understands that bicycles
are not allowed in Wilderness areas. Those of us in the Snowmobile industry
certainly realize that we cannot snowmobile in a designated Wilderness area.
Support of higher fees for recreation was strong among those
with family incomes of $75,000 or more. However, the unwillingness to pay more
for outdoor recreation has doubled in the last three years and we now see that
about 46% of Americans support of additional fees for public land use is low.
Outdoor recreation of most any type is healthy and good for
Americans. Healthy lands and responsible use of those lands results in a strong,
healthy people. It is our job to promote responsible outdoor recreation for
ourselves, our family and our friends.