Crowds out-of-doors: It’s all about respect
There are a lot of people using our Great Outdoors these days. According to data posted on the Outdoor Industry Association (outdoorindustry.org) web site:
“In 2020 the world witnessed incredible upheaval, and Americans across the country took to the outdoors in search of respite from COVID-19. The 2021 Outdoor Participation Trends Report, commissioned by the Outdoor Foundation, reveals that in 2020, 53 percent of Americans ages 6 and over participated in outdoor recreation at least once, the highest participation rate on record. Remarkably, 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior.”
The year 2021 was another banner year for outdoor participation, and it looks like 2022 will follow that pattern.
The repercussions of this outdoor recreation boom have been described by some as bittersweet. Sweet in that it is wonderful that people can enjoy the clean air, clear skies, and all the outdoors has to offer. Manufacturers of outdoor products have been operating at peak capacity to provide the gear necessary to enjoy a day on the water or in the field. The outdoor service industry has been pushed to the extent of its range to make sure everyone gets their gear.
The bitter comes from campgrounds that are at capacity leaving some of the regulars who have been annual visitors looking for alternative options. Many first-time outdoor users don’t understand the protocols that keep the outdoors vibrant and protected. There are complaints about littering on trails and overflowing trash containers. Animal harassment has been a problem and has resulted in some “brave” souls being injured for getting too close.
My son Jason (jasonsguideservice.com) has been guiding anglers in Alaska for almost 30 years. He tells me that based on his current level of bookings this will be a banner year for him. His recommendation is that if you are planning on taking a trip anywhere, and you plan on using any services once there, book it now. He told me about a person who called him and wanted to fish salmon on the Kenai for a couple of days and then get in some halibut fishing out of Seward for a couple of days. On the dates the angler was there in the Kenai Peninsula region it was impossible to string four consecutive days together to accomplish all that.
So how long will this phenomenon continue? Will those new to the outdoors say to heck with the mosquitos and biting flies and head back into the deep, dark confines of their bug-free abodes, or have they discovered the raw beauty nature has to offer, and grow closer to the outdoor experience?
It’s a question that only time will answer, but one thing is for sure. Those of us who have been promoters of the outdoor pursuits now realize we have a finite amount of resources and this additional pressure on these public woods and waters is affecting them in ways we never realized. So, in the short term it is up to everyone taking to the outdoors to be diligent and treat these open places with the utmost respect.