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Oregon Creates an “Office of Outdoor Recreation”

September 16, 2017

By Tom Kloster, President, Trailkeepers of Oregon

Man kneeling in water holding a large fish

Oregon Representative Ken Helm with a catch!

In its 2017 session, the Oregon legislature passed a pair of bills that created a new “Office of Outdoor Recreation” and established the first Saturday in June as “Outdoor Recreation Day.” Trailkeepers of Oregon partnered with the Mazamas, Oregon Wild, the Sierra Club, and other outdoor groups to support passage of the bills. Representative Ken Helm (D-Beaverton), a TKO member and co-sponsor of the “Office of Outdoor Recreation” bill, says he hopes the new legislation will help the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department better promote and support outdoor organizations like TKO.

TKO Executive Director Steve Kruger and I recently met over lunch with Representative Helm, an outdoor enthusiast, to learn more about the new Office of Outdoor Recreation. Operating within the State Parks and Recreation Department, the office will focus on the economic benefits of the estimated $12.8 billion in annual spending in Oregon tied to outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Industry Association, a national group that includes retailers and gear manufacturers, also strongly lobbied for the bill.

Oregon is following other states in more actively promoting outdoor recreation. Utah and Colorado already have similar offices, and North Carolina created an office this year, all with an eye toward better promoting and investing in the public infrastructure that makes outdoor recreation possible.

The new office will regularly report to the Oregon Parks Commission and the legislature on issues and concerns facing the recreation industry and nonprofit organizations like TKO that are involved in outdoor recreation. Representative Helm was hopeful that this new emphasis on outdoor recreation at the state level will grow with active involvement from TKO and other nonprofits. But he also cautioned that in Salem funding is always contentious, and that the ongoing support and success of the new office will really depend on TKO and others to continue to advocate for outdoor recreation.


Oregon Outdoor Recreation Day

A companion bill to the Office of Outdoor Recreation bill declares the first Saturday of June to be “Outdoor Recreation Day.” The purpose of this legislation is to create an annual occasion calling attention to the importance of outdoor recreation for Oregon’s economy and to the enhanced quality of life for all Oregonians that spending time in the outdoors offers.

For TKO, the new Outdoor Recreation Day will almost certainly be celebrated with some prominent stewardship projects, but we plan to eventually expand our promotion of the day in other ways, including guided hikes and other events to help Oregonians discover trails and their public lands.

Watch our newsletters and website for more on both initiatives, and how TKO will be working in this new partnership with the state to promote and protect our trails!


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