Virginians’ participation in many outdoor recreation activities has increased in recent years. But a changing demographic, financial and recreation landscape means that the state, its localities and community organizations will have to plan wisely to meet future needs and encourage healthy trends, according to Terance Rephann, an economist in the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Large gaps persist in outdoor recreation use by black and white Virginians, according to the study. Meanwhile, some activities, such as walking and soccer, have gained in popularity while others such as baseball, hunting and fishing have decreased. Public funding for parks and recreation has fallen in recent years, and the competition for limited resources for open space acquisition, facility maintenance, and new construction funds has become fierce.
According to the author, well-known benefits of recreation include improved physical and psychological health through exercise, relaxation, nature appreciation, and social bonds, as well as environmental and economic benefits to localities. Outdoor recreation investments will increasingly be seen as tools to help manage growing health care costs and solving health issues, Rephann predicts.
A promising finding is that state park visitations have continued to increase in Virginia. The author observes that one analysis suggests that Virginia has significant excess capacity in its park system that can meet increased demand in contrast to some states that have serious capacity constraints.