Sisters Kali and Alizae sat near a campfire at Arbutus Lake State Forest Campground in Michigan’s southern East Bay Township. Their brother, Jarvis, 6, stood nearby. The fire crackled gently while a surrounding forest of tall trees sheltered the campsite from the late afternoon sun.

The children from Grawn were midway through two weeks of camping with their parents, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

“We grew up around here,” said mother Mindy Burnam. “We bring them out here instead of keeping them cooped up all summer.”

The outdoors ranks high among reasons many choose to live in northwest Lower Michigan. It is also a powerful draw for tourists who flock to the Traverse City area each summer. No matter where campers call home, their visits to local campgrounds contribute to the local economy.

Hotel, motel and condominium rent accounts for a huge portion of the economic impact of seasonal visitors. Campers, particularly those who choose rustic campsites, spend much less on lodging. But campers contribute to the local economy when they buy groceries, beverages, restaurant meals, movie tickets, gasoline, insect repellent or anything they forgot to pack at home. And equipping a family to camp involves a significant investment in sleeping bags, tents, water jugs and other essentials.

“Oh sure,” Burnam said. “We bought all kinds of stuff — camp dishes, camp chairs, camp tables.”

Outdoor recreation generates $18.7 billion in annual consumer spending in Michigan, according to the most recent national surveys conducted for the Outdoor Industry Association. About 194,000 Michigan residents are directly employed in the outdoor industry, the surveys said. Nationally, outdoor recreation employs 6.1 million people and generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending.

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