Lake of the Sunset Glow

Does outdoor recreation have a future?

June 6 and 7 was “Take-a-kid fishing” weekend in Minnesota. There is also a “Take-a-kid ice fishing weekend” in February. These are just two of the programs the Minnesota DNR is sponsoring to try to help reverse one of several disturbing trends in outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, recreational boating, wildlife viewing, etc.).

Here are the figures for Minnesota for the years 1996-2006:

  • State park visitation (same parks) – down 12%
  • Resident anglers licensed in Minnesota (aged 16+) – down 16%
  • Resident hunters licensed in Minnesota (aged 16+) – down 9%
  • Recreational boating in Minnesota – down 15%

And Minnesota is doing well compared to the rest of the nation!

This trend is across all age groups.  Different reasons have been identified: 

  1. For older adults – accessibility is becoming a problem.
  2. For people in their 30s, 40s and 50s – work and family pressures limit time and money available.
  3. For younger adults – other competing interests and lack of skills and knowledge of the outdoors.

The trend among youth, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation:  kids 8-18 now devote, on average, nearly 7 hours a day to sitting in front of various electronic media.  As a result, they are spending 50% less time outdoors than their parents did.  That leads to one of the reasons given for the lack of participation by young adults – lack of skills and knowledge.

The best way to help reverse this trend is exposure to the outdoors.  If you have children and/or grandchildren, think about ways to get them involved and interested in nature and the recreational opportunities it provides.  Turn off the electronics (not just the TV – think about the things that are taken along when you leave the house – cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, handheld games, DVD players in vehicles).  Help kids learn how to fish or camp or even just find interesting things on a hike.  If you absolutely do not have the time and resources, their are camps, groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, Campfire, etc.

The future of outdoor recreation in the US is in our hands.

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