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  • Writer's pictureLee Hart

AOA State Recreation Priorities 2021

AOA works to ensure adequate funding and access are in place to support the growing role of outdoor recreation, and to reduce or eliminate barriers that limit the right of Alaska citizens, businesses, and visitors to enjoy our state’s abundant outdoor recreation amenities.

Top Ways Alaska’s Outdoor Recreation Sector Benefits the State*

  • Outdoor recreation accounts for $2.1 billion to state economy; 3.9 percent of state GDP

  • Growth in AK’s outdoor rec economy (+4.7%) outpaced the national average (+3.7%)

  • Growth in AK’s outdoor recreation wages (+4.7%) outpaced the national average (3.9%)

  • Sustains existing businesses, attracts new businesses and workforce. Link.

  • Outdoor sports events and festivals boost local economies Link

  • Sustains healthy lifestyles; lowers health care costs. Link.

Outdoor recreation infrastructure IS critical infrastructure.

The pandemic has shown beyond any shadow of doubt that outdoor recreation is an essential business to Alaskans. Funding outdoor recreation infrastructure projects creates jobs that can put Alaskans back to work and help the state rebound from the pandemic. We strongly support the following actions that maintain and increase support for outdoor recreation.

Multiply investments by providing state match for federal grants

Accelerate Economic Recovery with Investment in Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Projects

Funding major outdoor recreation infrastructure projects puts Alaskans back to work and creates sustainable assets that benefit state and local economies and attract visitors. Outdoor recreation infrastructure requires the hiring of professional planning firms, skilled construction labor, surveyors and other technical services, conservation crews, plus vendor contracts all of which put food on the table and spur spending in the economy. The 800-mile Alaska Long Trail envisioned to connect Seward to Fairbanks is an example of a regional infrastructure project that benefits local economies and help them become more resilient to fluctuations in market conditions and consumer trends.

Support Transportation Measures that Benefit Year-Round Outdoor Recreation

  • Increase funding for community-based winter trail maintenance. HB [TBA] proposed to double the state snow machine registration fee that supports the SnowTRAC community trail grooming program. The program leverages funds raised by community groups that groom hundreds of miles of trails, creating a multi-use winter transportation and recreation network. In addition to snow machines, the trails are used by individuals as well as event organizers of snow machine, sled dog, fat bike and ski races that all benefit local economies.

  • Make Alaska More Bike- and Walk-Friendly. Support proposed administrative code changes and new policies that advance recommendations to the Alaska Statewide Active Transportation Plan that was updated and adopted by the Department of Transportation in July 2019. The Top 3 of many benefits of safer streets include:

    • Stronger economies, in part because, businesses lining safer streets are proven to be more inviting to customers & inspire more private investment.

    • Reduced collision and injury costs for all road users.

    • Make it much easier for people to build routine physical activity into their daily lives as they are more comfortable opting to walk or bike to work, school, church and other everyday destinations.

  • Update outdated vehicle regulations to reflect technological advances. Currently, Alaska prohibits e-bike usage on roads creating user conflicts and legal uncertainty for e-bike cyclists and law enforcement alike. In states that have adopted the three-class system proposed in HB [TBA], retailers report that sales of e-bikes more than double. On the local level, bike retailers in states with this law report that having a statewide three class e-bike system helps their team clearly explain to customers where e-bikes are and aren’t allowed reducing user conflicts on streets, sidewalks and trails for residents who buy the bikes and visitors who rent them.

  • Improve safety and support businesses dependent on a best-of-class winter maintenance on the Seward Highway/Turnagain Pass. Due to budget cuts, the only road connecting Alaska’s biggest city with some 60,000 residents on the Kenai Peninsula has became more dangerous for the truckers, residents and businesses that depend on it. Responding to a public awareness campaign, in December the Governor promised to re-open the Silver Tip maintenance facility on Turnagain Pass. While plowing frequency appears to have improved since the announcement, Silver Tip remains unstaffed and the FY22 budget does not indicate its ongoing operation.

* US Bureau of Economic Analysis 2018/pre-pandemic

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