As his administration approaches its final two months, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday released new data celebrating the impact of outdoor recreation on the state’s economy.

He also signed an executive order to establish the Inter-Agency Trails and Recreation Council, which he said will promote outdoor recreation and conservation in Colorado, as well as improve coordination on outdoor recreation among eight state agencies and related state-funded entities. Those entities include the Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Standing in front of downtown Denver’s Confluence Park on Friday, the governor spoke about the future of Colorado outdoor recreation, whether it’s hiking or hunting or fishing in the mountains, or biking and trails in urban areas. He pointed out that the metro Denver area has 1,000 miles of bike/pedestrian trails, almost all interconnected.

“We just have to make sure people know about it,” he said.

Biking gets people into shape, reduces traffic congestion and adds economic impact, he added.

That economic impact in 2017 topped $37 billion in consumer spending, generated $9 billion in local and federal taxes, and is tied to 511,000 jobs. The overall economic contribution in 2017, including salaries and wages, was $62 billion, nearly twice what it was five years ago, according to the governor’s office.

Nearly 134,000 jobs on the Western Slope are tied to outdoor recreation, with another 120,000 along the Continental Divide in northern Colorado.

The executive order the governor signed Friday “is something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s lean and straightforward and allows us to continue the momentum. The goal is to make it easier for the next governor.

“The most important thing it does is delineate how the different agencies can work together,” Hickenlooper said. It also puts “more meat on the bone to Colorado the Beautiful,” the statewide effort to ensure that every Coloradan is no more than a 10-minute walk from a trail or green space.

The executive order is also intended to help clarify and disseminate information on the rights of private property owners who allow people to cross their lands to reach a trailhead, for example. State law shields those private property owners from liability, he said.

Additionally, the executive order looks to increase diversity hiring at the state division of parks and wildlife, as well as develop a mobile app by next month that will show off the state’s trails.

“When we look to the future, we see children who have traded playgrounds for PlayStations,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Bob Randall.

“We see a lack of diversity and limited access to those who seldom think of the outdoors. Generations raised on hunting and fishing struggle to pass that on to future generations, and urban neighborhoods have too few connections to open spaces and outdoor recreation.

“Fostering a greater connection among people, especially young people, matters for our physical and mental well being, as well as for the recreational spaces,” he said, adding that the time will come to pass the baton.

Without a new generation of people who share a curiosity and passion about sustaining the state’s treasures, “we put that inheritance at risk.”

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