Draft Letter of Support:
INSERT DATE & LOGO
On behalf of [YOUR ORGANIZATION], I am writing to express our support for establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development under House Bill 1337 by Camper/Senate Bill 0375 by Campbell in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2023.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation generated $9 billion and 93,000 jobs in Tennessee in 2021, comprising 2.1% of the state’s GDP and 2.9% of all jobs. Truly, the outdoor recreation economy is a major piece of Tennessee’s economy and culture and will be for generations to come. Outdoor recreation is not just a “nice to have” in our state and local communities, but a “need to have” for health, jobs, and a vibrant economy.
To keep this vital sector growing, Tennessee should establish Office of Outdoor Recreation (OREC) in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. The establishment of an OREC was recommended by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) in December 2022 as the best approach for us to navigate this opportunity across intergovernmental agencies and jurisdictions. OREC offers an opportunity to focus on economic development and tourism in rural counties and a solution-oriented focus on user group conflicts and overlapping jurisdictions rather than leading with a regulatory or law enforcement approach. This initiative would also inherently increase rural prosperity, build healthy communities, develop a next-generation workforce, and promote environmental stewardship and responsible resource development.
An OREC will help attract new businesses, recruit and retain employees, improve urban and rural quality of life, help focus efforts already underway across multiple agencies, and sustainably drive Tennessee’s economy forward. Communities across the state will be better able to recruit talent and business that increasingly factor in quality of life when deciding where to locate.
There are myriad indirect benefits of the outdoor recreation. Spending time in natural areas helps lessen anxiety and depression, increase feelings of tranquility, and strengthen concentration. Children with regular doses of nature have improved emotional resilience, test scores and cognitive health. People with access to the outdoors are more physically active, and regular physical activity increases our lifespans and helps prevent obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, Tennessee’s expansive natural areas are effective in combating extreme heat, one of the deadliest consequences of climate change.
Given the size and scope of Tennessee’s recreation economy and its dense network of rich natural resources across the state, establishing a state Office of Outdoor Recreation in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is a smart investment in Tennessee’s economy and it’s future.