PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Rhode Island Outdoor Recreation Council - created by Governor Gina M. Raimondo and composed of government, community and industry leaders - released its final report today, outlining a new vision for outdoor recreation in the state. The report, which highlights the importance of Rhode Island's natural resources and recreational facilities to the state's economy, public health and culture, includes key recommendations to further promote and grow the local outdoor recreation industry.
"Rhode Islanders - my family included - love our Bay, beaches, parks and bike paths," Raimondo said. "These features are at the heart of why people choose to live, work and visit Rhode Island, and why businesses choose to locate here. But too many Rhode Islanders don't have access to some of these places, and we can do more to inspire everybody to live a healthier life. I'm thankful to the members of the Outdoor Recreation Council for dedicating their time this year to this important work, and look forward to seeing how we can put these recommendations into action."
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs. Rhode Island is well known for its outstanding network of historic parks, beaches, bikeways, and other recreational areas, including more than 400 miles of hiking trails and some 88,000 acres of greenspace. The Outdoor Recreation Council's report cites Rhode Island's small size and the great diversity of its recreational opportunities among its many strengths on which to build. The ability to enjoy a variety of activities all in the same day - such as visiting a park, kayaking or fishing in salty or freshwater - was noted as part of the state's unique appeal for outdoor enthusiasts.
"We have incredible outdoor recreation opportunities in Rhode Island, whether it's hiking, biking swimming and so much more" said First Gentleman Andy Moffit, who is also Chair of the Rhode Island Outdoor Recreation Council. "But as we researched it, it's clear we can be doing more to leverage outdoor recreation to improve our quality of life, the health of all Rhode Islanders and our economy. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with such a dedicated, thoughtful group of advocates, and I'm excited to keep working together to realize the vision for RI outdoor recreation we've set out."
The Report also cites Rhode Island's historic success in preserving and investing in its natural resources and recreational facilities through state bonds and strong government and community partnerships. Last month, the Green Economy Bond, which includes $27 million to improve parks and bikeways and preserve valuable greenspace, passed overwhelmingly - with 67 percent voter approval. Significant challenges remain, however, in providing full access to these outdoor recreational facilities, particularly for low-income and minority populations, and in realizing the true economic potential of these assets.
Among the Report's key recommendations are:
• Establishing a sustainable funding stream for recreation-related investments;
• Promoting and supporting more active lifestyles among all Rhode Islanders;
• Improving access to information on local outdoor recreation opportunities;
• Improving transportation within and between recreational facilities for all users;
• Building a diverse constituency for outdoor recreation.
"So many stunning places dot our landscape in Rhode Island - from beautiful parks to meandering forest trails to Narragansett Bay. We have so much to offer," said DEM Director Janet Coit, who serves as a vice-chair on the Council. "The value of these assets to our state and our lives is significant - a point reflected and celebrated in the Council's Final Report. I am pleased to join the First Gentleman, Dr. Alexander-Scott, and Council members in releasing this Report. And I look forward to continuing our work to preserve these special places and expand our network of recreational areas for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders and visitors to our state."
"Our wealth of outdoor recreational spaces provide ideal opportunities to get people physically active and play an important role in fostering healthy lifestyles," said Director of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, who also serves as a vice-chair of the Council. "The Council's report provides us with a much-needed blueprint for maximizing use of these extraordinary resources. The report also recognizes the unique challenges faced by under-resourced communities in developing and maintaining these spaces, and provides recommendations to support the kind of programming and infrastructure that will facilitate greater use by all Rhode Islanders."
To read the full report, the executive summary of the report or the Council's final presentation to Governor Raimondo, click the links below.