Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

Outdoor activities generate more than $16 billion annually in Oregon, according to an industry study released to the public on Wednesday.

The Outdoor Industry Association, a Colorado-based organization that represents outdoor gear marketers and manufacturers, released updated state-by-state breakdowns of the impact the outdoor recreation industry has on each state during the Outdoor Retailers show in Salt Lake City.

According to the association’s report on Oregon, the state’s spending on outdoor recreation — a sprawling category that the organization uses to include everything from the cost of new bikes or skis, to travel costs associated with outdoor recreation trips — has grown by more than 28 percent since the last iteration of the study was released in 2013.

In addition, the number of people employed in the industry increased from 141,000 to 172,000, a jump of nearly 22 percent. According to the study, 69 percent of Oregonians surveyed said they participate in outdoor recreation each year, up from 60 percent during the previous survey.

The raw economic numbers place Oregon in the middle of the pack among Western states, well behind California, Washington and Colorado, but ahead of Nevada, Idaho and Utah, among others.

However, consumer spending in Oregon jumped by a higher percentage than any other Western state. Nationally, consumer spending grew from $646 billion in 2012 to $887 billion in 2016. Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said the organization does not yet have breakdowns on where in the state the increase is coming from, but added that, anecdotally, Central Oregon has played a significant role.

“If you look at cities like Bend, you see the growth in the outdoor recreation economy,” Roberts said.

Since 2012, when data for the prior Outdoor Industry Association report was collected, Central Oregon’s outdoor gear industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Van Schoessler, president of the Oregon Outdoor Alliance, a Bend-based nonprofit that represents outdoor apparel companies in Central Oregon, said the region has added Bend Outdoor Worx, a startup incubator for outdoor product companies, as well as the Venture Out Festival, the nation’s first venture capital festival for outdoor companies, held annually in Bend.

“I’m just seeing a lot more engagement,” Schoessler said

As of 2016, when the Outdoor Industry Association collected survey data for its survey, Central Oregon was home to 88 outdoor gear and apparel companies, which employed 578 people, according to Economic Development for Central Oregon’s annual profile of Central Oregon.

Roberts acknowledged that the new study, which featured survey data from 61,228 recipients nationally, was expanded to include new categories of outdoor recreation, meaning comparisons to prior studies don’t compare apples to apples. She said the new study was expanded to include stand-up paddleboarding, which has grown rapidly in Oregon and nationwide in recent years.

“Stand-up paddleboard was one of our fastest-growing sports,” Roberts said.

At the state level, Oregon’s House Bill 3350, which creates a dedicated office of outdoor recreation within the State Parks and Recreation Department, passed the Senate earlier this month with support from the Oregon Outdoor Alliance and the Outdoor Industry Association, and is currently awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s signature.

Still, Schoessler said one challenge is making sure public land in Oregon is protected for future generations as the state continues to grow. Dan Morse, conservation director for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, a Bend-based nonprofit, said public lands in Eastern Oregon in particular need people who care about them, which can only happen when people experience them. Therefore, he said, the need for conservation must be balanced with the need to raise awareness as communities east of the Cascade Mountains continue to grow.

“People will come,” he said. “We’ve seen that time and again on public lands in the West.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,