On March 25, the Minnesota House of Representatives Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee held a hearing on a bill to establish an Office of Outdoor Recreation (OREC) in Minnesota, according to a News & Insights report by the RV Industry Association (RVIA).
For years, RVIA, along with partners in the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), have advocated for the creation of these offices in all states to promote outdoor recreation policy and economic development among stakeholders in the outdoor recreation industry at the state level. So far, 18 states have created OREC offices or appointed a Director of Outdoor Recreation to implement strategic plans that grow outdoor recreation through policies, programs, and initiatives.
During the hearing, Winnebago Industries’ Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Executive Director Katy Friesz testified on the importance of establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation. Friesz has been a strong proponent of establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation in Minnesota, including serving on the task force that recommended the creation of such an office last spring.
An Office of Outdoor Recreation makes particular sense in Minnesota where outdoor recreation is a way of life for many and a prominent economic driver in the state, generating $8.4 billion annually and supporting more than 89,000 jobs. The RV industry alone has a $2.4 billion annual economic impact in Minnesota and employs more than 14,000 state residents. Many facets of the state government already support and promote Minnesota’s outdoor recreation opportunities and the economic benefits they provide. The establishment of an OREC office would coordinate these efforts and ensure unity as well as efficiency among outdoor recreation stakeholders and the government.
The creation of a Minnesota OREC office would also play a prominent role in expanding access to the outdoors and nature-based experiences for state residents. A strong, place-based outdoor culture and access to outdoor assets enable communities and states to attract new business; recruit and retain employees; improve urban and rural quality of life; attract year-round tourism; create sustainable local economies; and expand access to the outdoors for all residents, creating positive benefits across economic, health, and social indicators. Creating a Minnesota OREC would help focus efforts already underway across multiple agencies and drive Minnesota’s economy forward.