Washingtonians Love Our Outdoors - $21.6 Billion Worth!

Photo Credit: Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office

We are delighted to share with you a new study that looks at the contribution of outdoor recreation to Washington’s economy. Here are some of the results:

  1. Outdoor recreation generates $21.6 billion a year in spending on trips and equipment in Washington State. That money is spread through all different kinds of businesses: Gear and equipment (42 percent), gas and oil (13 percent), grocery stores (9 percent), food services (10 percent), and lodging (7 percent).
  2. Washingtonians love to play outside, spending an average of 56 days a year in some form of outdoor recreation.
  3. The five most popular recreational activities are 1) walking, 2) running and jogging, 3) wildlife viewing and photography, 4) bicycle riding, and 5) playground use.
  4. Nearly 200,000 jobs are supported by outdoor recreation, comparable to the aerospace and tech industry in Washington.
  5. People go to local parks the most when recreating outside, but spend the least amount of money to do so. They spend the most amount of money when they are recreating on water.
  6. Tourists contribute $4.6 billion to Washington’s economy and that’s despite the fact that Washington is one of only two states that spends no money on tourism.
  7. The recreation market is one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building jobs in more rural areas.
  8. Outdoor recreation not only creates jobs and builds businesses, it cuts health care costs, brings families closer together, helps kids learn in school, and protects the environment.

To quantify some of the non-market values, the report looked at the statewide value of ecosystem services provided by the trees, water, and animals found on public recreation lands – clean water, habitat for wildlife, aesthetic beauty, and enhanced recreational experiences. The combined value of these non-market benefits is between $134 billion and $248 billion a year.

Read the full report: Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State or the fact sheet.

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office hired the Tacoma firm of Earth Economics to complete the study for the Legislature. Earth Economics is also working with the ROSS team to complete our evaluation of regional open space services and we are thrilled to learn from this excellent work. The study is the first comprehensive analysis of the contributions of outdoor recreation to Washington’s economy. It offers economic impact data by geography, by county, by legislative district, by type of land, and by activity.

The report complements the work of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which was established to look at ways to support outdoor recreation businesses, to encourage more kids to play outside, and to find funding for state parks and other state agencies that support outdoor recreation. To read more about the work of the task force, visit

Contribution from our partner:  Kaleen Cottingham, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office

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