Outdoor rec is $11B industry in Mass., but some see retreat to pre-COVID numbers of enthusiasts

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Interest in the outdoors — hiking, biking, camping and fishing — climbed during the pandemic, and businesses in Massachusetts that serve the market grew 17% in 2022.

The state’s outdoor economy contributed more than $11.7 billion in value added to the Massachusetts economy and created 102,687 jobs, according to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth. Both in interest in the outdoors and in our program,” said Brian Pearson, founder and president of Adventure East, a Pioneer Valley outdoor outfitter.

Adventure East, a three-year-old business based in Sunderland, offers outdoor trips, such as canoeing and kayaking, with a staff of about 40 part-time guides.

“We have all the gear. We have all the guides. We do all the planning and logistics,” Pearson said.

The Berkshires having been long-famous as a resort, but Pearson said he’s seeing more interest in the valley, too.

The nonprofit Trustees of Reservations has 120 sites across the state, including the Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke and the Becket Historic Quarry and Forest in the Berkshire County town of Becket.

Mary Dettloff, director of public relations for The Trustees, said Monday that group’s properties got busy during the pandemic.

“People were wanting to get outdoors after being cooped up in their houses,” she said.

But this summer saw a slight dip in interest for The Trustees’ organized activities like guided hikes.

There could be a number of factors: There were only three sunny weekends all summer, for example; more people are working in the office, devoting hours to their commute that once were spent out-of-doors; and more forms of recreation also are open, like movie theaters.

The Trustees is re-evaluating its summer programs, Detloff said.

The Healey-Driscoll administration published the federal study Monday, pointing to the new state Office of Outdoor Recreation helping to get more residents outside and enjoying the state’s beautiful natural resources.

“Massachusetts has some of the most amazing natural assets, from Mount Greylock to the Cape Cod seashore and everything in between,” said Kate Fox, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. “MOTT and MOOR (Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation) are working together to promote these amazing places to visitors and residents alike to grow this sector even more.”

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