FILE - PA state park 7-14-2020

The entrance of the Delaware Canal State Park Virginia Forrest Recreation Area is seen July 14, 2020, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation industry accumulated about $13.2 billion, or 1.6% of the state’s domestic product in 2019, giving it the sixth-highest GDP from the industry among all states, according to statistics that The Bureau of Economic Analysis released in a recent report.

Total outdoor recreation employment, based on state level data published in September 2020, is an estimated 170,565 jobs, making it the fifth-highest employing state in this industry. More than half of those jobs are in retail trade (52,394) or arts, entertainment and recreation (47,125), according to the report’s estimates, which are based on the 2012 North American Industry Classification System.

Pennsylvania’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which is valued at $2.0 billion, is the fifth-highest in the nation, according to the report. In comparison, Texas, with $3.8 billion, has the fourth-highest producing arts, entertainment and recreation state industry, after Florida ($10.3 billion), California ($8.2 billion) and New York ($4.0 billion).

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources manages 2.5 million acres of public lands, including state parks and state forests, and supports many of the state’s more than 6,000 local parks through grants, Gretchen Leslie, the department’s senior adviser in the Office of the Secretary, said in an email. Local parks-related spending creates $1.6 billion annually in economic activity, she said.

“State and local parks, state forests, and trails are true economic drivers worthy of the investments to keep them open, safe and welcoming,” Leslie said. “Not only do they support jobs and generate revenue, but they also provide the amenities and services that are so critical to the vibrancy of the places we call home. Access to the outdoors for all improves quality of life, which translates into attracting business and increasing housing values.”

The state’s outdoor recreation priorities include expanding walking and biking networks for communities across the state, according to its 2020-24 outdoor recreation plan.

“We are using newly gathered GIS [geographic information system] data to identify where there are gaps in providing access to outdoor recreation,” Leslie said. “We’ll look to target investments to help close those gaps. Our goal is to have a park or trail within 10 minutes of every [Pennsylvanian].”

Pennsylvania also authorized in November 2020 the DCNR to develop new ATV trails that could connect state forest lands into rural areas, particularly in the north-central part of the state, Leslie said.

“Our Bureau of Forestry is examining locations for a pilot project in several north-central counties that could build out the local economies with increased riding opportunities,” she said.

The state had received about 1,000 comments on motorized recreation, “most of which” sought increased opportunities for ATV and motor bike riding, on a web survey The Center for Survey Research conducted, according to the state’s outdoor recreation plan for 2020-2024.

REI and Dicks Sporting Goods are also providing new outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. The former has announced a fall 2021 opening for its fifth store in the state, in Mechanicsburg, while Dicks Sporting Goods announced concept store Public Lands will take over a Field & Stream store in Pittsburgh later this year.