The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development is working on updating Alabama’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which steers federal funding to outdoor recreation services across the state — and the researchers need your help.
Partnering with the Center for Business and Economic Research, the Culverhouse College of Business and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the researchers are conducting online surveys of Alabama residents and recreation providers to find out what’s needed and developing a plan on how to meet those needs.
Federal dollars that support Alabama’s outdoor recreation infrastructure come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Recreational Trails Program. These programs support communities through funding for recreational trails, hunting and fishing access, campgrounds, athletic fields, land acquisitions and many other types of outdoor recreational development. The Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in August 2020, provides enhanced funding to Alabama communities for these types of projects.
“Alabama will receive significantly more funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for its competitive grant program in the coming years,” said Brian Rushing, director of economic development initiatives at UACED. “The SCORP establishes funding priorities for this program, so our planning process is essential for identifying how we can best spend these funds to maximize the benefits to our communities and the state as a whole.”
Alabamians spend about $14 billion each year on outdoor recreation, which supports more than 135,000 jobs and generates $857 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
In addition to its economic importance, demand for outdoor recreational activities has increased since COVID-19, with state parks seeing a 30% jump in attendance. Some local parks have seen a 100% increase in use in 2020 versus use in 2019.
“Given the importance of outdoor recreation to our economy and to our health and well-being, and the enhanced funding we expect to come down from the federal level, this is a unique opportunity to evaluate the state’s ability to provide outdoor recreation,” Rushing said. “Alabama still has a lot of untapped potential for outdoor recreation development, and by working together to make wise investments, we can make our state an even better place to live, work and play for all of our citizens.”
Outdoor recreation providers will receive an email to participate in the survey, but the public should provide input by Feb. 5 by visiting alabamaoutdoorrecreation.org.