NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Thursday that even during the Great Recession, growth in the outdoor recreation industry has provided a boost to the economy.
Salazar spoke to local business leaders and others in New Hampshire after signing an order in Connecticut establishing a National Blueways System to prioritize government funding affecting designated rivers in the region.
"Even this last year, we've seen continued growth in outdoor recreation and those are jobs that stay here," Salazar said. "It's happened with almost every outdoor recreation store I've seen in the past couple years. They continue to grow."
From the kayak section of outdoor retailer Eastern Mountain Sports, Salazar said he sees "the reality of job creation."
Will Manzer, president and CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports, said outdoor recreation has grown at a rate two to five times that of other industries. The company now has 67 stores on the East Coast.
"We are an industry," Manzer said. "We're not a bunch of tree-huggers, although we do that, too. We're always glad to hug a tree, but we are an economic driver."
Throughout the country, $4.3 billion is spent on recreation goods annually, including $261 million in New Hampshire, according to Outdoor Industry Association data from 2006. Updated figures are scheduled to be released in June.
Salazar's order also affects funding for access and recreation facilities related to National Blueway rivers. The first river named a National Blueway is the 410-mile Connecticut River, which runs from the Canadian border to the Long Island Sound, passing through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.