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Q&A: Place Value, Outdoor Recreation Economy

By: John Lavey

Date: Mar, 30 2017

Originally airing March 22, 2017, the first in our Place Value series of webinars focused on the economic value of outdoor recreation. Check out a recording of the webinar here

There were a few questions our panelists were not able to address during the live session. Those questions are presented below, and responses are edited for length and clarity. 

1) With the survey that was shown at the beginning, were demographics measured as well?

We did capture some demographic information from the community members who responded to the survey. The questions focused principally on household factors such as number of persons in household, age and employment status. 

2) What is your experience working in more remote rural areas. Eagle is, after all, near Vail and just off I-70, with great accessibility?

Amy: I have heard presentations from other rural areas at various conferences, discussing the unique challenges and opportunities that come from being “off the beaten path.” I have a meeting with Pagosa Springs, CO in April and will learn more about the challenges that come with being more remote when I talk with them. Also will be working with the Colorado Tourism Office to discuss this very topic.

Matt: For us, working in more remote areas means more time spent traveling to/from the work site each day and/or higher costs associated with lodging.

3) Did any of you promote an official designated "water/paddling" trail and related events?

Amy: I have not but would love to! Looks very cool.

Tom: We have promoted paddling advance and are working on water trails on the Jordan River. The Jordan River has an amazing multi-use pack up and down for Wasatch Valley. Many people also paddle this waterway but you can't do the whole thing in one shot without portage. Ideally down the road it will be a continual path.

4) Is the municipal boundary of Eagle directly adjacent to federal lands, or is there a buffer of county land between?

Amy: Eagle’s open space includes town owned open space, and the town is basically surrounded by BLM land. US Forest Service land is adjacent to, and higher in elevation therefore more remote than, the BLM lands.  

Matt: For the most part, Eagle town open space backs up onto BLM lands, with USFS lands above/beyond the BLM parcels. We’ve built/re-routed/reclaimed trail on all of it, in conjunction with the particular managers.

5) What is the impact of the Paiute Trail for recreation opportunities?

Tom: The PT is one of Utah's gems for motorized activities. We see people from around the country coming to our rural communities to ride on the trail. Of course this is not an activity that everyone can afford. Those that are investing spend money on their toys and they always spend money in our towns for everything from parts to food.

In addition, there are a number of companies in and around the PT that operate daily rentals. Again, it's definitely more money than going out on a nice hike but if you want to experience the PT on an OHV these companies help to make it affordable. If you have the chance both the PT and the Arpeen Trail are well worth the price of admission.

6) It's good to see the demand under your grant program. Where do you see potential for future revenue to help develop community/recreation assets i.e. a directed tax on outdoor retail items?

Tom: The longer I'm in my role, the more I recognize how many opportunities we have already with private, state, federal, and local government. There are lots of programs out there to help create infrastructure. Many of them are matching grants which can be used along with other grants. If you have a good project it's fairly easy to find some funding.

In addition, states like Utah have community service in their DNA. For nearly 10 years in a row Utah has had the most service hours of any state in the nation, hitting nearly 200,000,000 hours. This culture helps to create infrastructure at an affordable cost. There are lots of hands to help physically and many of them also contribute financially.

Last but not least at some point there may be a tax at the register on outdoor equipment. There are debates on both sides but it's easy to find other use based tax programs out there. It basically turns out to be a pay to play tax. This discussion is really in its infancy and there are lots of things to be determined.

7) How did you get through all the DNRC, Conservation District, FWP, USDA, BLM and USFS red tape?

Amy: One thing town of Eagle did to expedite the process was to order and pay for all necessary surveys when seeking permits for new trails. Additionally, we found that working with the BLM and USFS on permitting, it is incredibly helpful to be willing to work together to close rogue/illegal/social trails and re-route unsustainable trails. Some of Eagle’s re-routed trails feel like brand new trails and that process was easier with the BLM.

Tom: Lots of persistence and collaboration from level headed people. There are lots of great projects in UT that exemplify good collaboration. Some projects have taken a decade and lots of moving pieces but determined communities have kept the conversations alive and well. At the end of the day everyone typically wants the best for their communities and it often takes a new voice or new approach to find common ground. My office holds conferences each year and one of our main goals is to highlight the projects where people have overcome the conflict and found common ground through collaboration. It is by far the most popular workshop for city local and federal land managers. They hear great stories and always make connections with the panelists or people in attendance.

8) Focus was on communities and all activities highlighted were targeting Millennials and/or younger and/or demanding action sports creating the perception that you have to be a black diamond athlete to live there and/or use their trail systems. Have similar marketing and development projects occurred which are creating opportunities for less gifted persons, e.g. non-athletic types?

Amy: In my opinion, tactics are very similar whether you are talking about mountain bike trails vs. a concert series, vs. a creative district vs. a brewery or historic tour. The differences lie in the messaging, audience, medium, etc. but the strategies and tactics are very similar.

Matt: On the contrary (and perhaps I didn’t make enough mention of it), most of what we have built locally here in the Vail Valley has been very beginner to intermediate focused trails/projects. In general, we suggest that the closer trail amenities are to town, the more beginner friendly they should be. Advanced riders usually don’t have a problem reaching more remote areas for harder terrain.

When it comes to bike park installations, it’s always best to offer beginner through expert features for riders of all abilities. For example, The Haymaker trail project used for the high school state championships is very beginner friendly and the closest trail amenity to town. The pump track in Eagle is located adjacent to a rec center.

Tom: The Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant has helped fund all types of activities. Our goal is to get people active close to their communities. The majority of the projects we find our for all abilities.

9) How does a community navigate the process of establishing the tax base through tourism dollars from hotels, shopping, and services to fund these active infrastructure and marketing enterprises?

Amy: In Eagle, the lodging tax was promoted as a “pass-through” tax or a “tax you don’t pay,” since nearly all of the tax is collected by out-of-town guests. There have been some hiccups in collections of this tax. One of the key people to get the lodging tax question on the ballot was a hotelier in town. The sales tax initiative for the water park was a little more difficult because it was a broader sales tax that would impact everyone from local businesses to residents/consumers. There was a robust informational campaign prior to the question being placed on the ballot. You need an engaged and motivated committee to inform the public and campaign in support of the measure. Working with a consultant such as Trust For Public Lands was very helpful.

Tom: Like any bill it was best to research and typically emulate what has been successful in other cities and states. Please look at the language in SB 264 to see the details on how Utahans are helping to fund our grant through a TRT tax.

http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/SB0264.html

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By: John Lavey

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