New analysis: Arizonans are going outdoors in large numbers, indicating need to pass federal Great American Outdoors Act
A new fact sheet released by Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center shows Arizonans have been flocking to the outdoors in significant numbers in recent months. According to the group, between April and May 2020, visitation at Arizona’s state parks increased by 45 percent, compared to a 15 percent decrease during the same period last year.
“In these difficult times, Arizonans are looking to the physical and emotional relief that Arizona’s public lands offer,” said Alex Petersen with Environment Arizona. “With visitor numbers expected to remain high even once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, we need to invest in the American outdoors by providing full and permanent funding for conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
According to the group, the closure of many local playgrounds has contributed to parks and hiking trails across Arizona being inundated with visitors. In May, Lyman Lake in Apache County received 275 percent more visitors this year than last, Lake Havasu 83 percent more, Fool Hollow Lake in Navajo County 47 percent, Roper Lake in Graham County 39 percent, and Patagonia Lake, Santa Cruz County, 29 percent.
This analysis comes just over a month after the U.S. Senate voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill to permanently fund the LWCF at $900 million annually and provide $9.5 billion over five years to fix maintenance problems that are plaguing America’s public lands. Arizona’s U.S. Senators Sinema and McSally voted for the legislation. The bill is now before the U.S. House and is expected to be voted on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
Environment Arizona said that the surge in demand for access to public lands can also help support Arizona’s economic recovery. Outdoor recreation generates $21.2 billion in consumer spending in Arizona, 201,000 jobs, and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue every year.