Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office eyes post-pandemic opportunities

DENVER -- The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) is leading a statewide consortium of industry partners to help the outdoor recreation industry recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“It’s important to help lay the groundwork now so our industry is poised for a strong recovery as expanded participation resumes,” said OREC Director Nathan Fey who was also recently named co-chair of the Confluence of States, a bipartisan organization developing a national platform to grow the outdoor recreation economy. 

OREC recently partnered with The North Face, Phunkshun Wear, Colorado Creative Industries, and the Mile High Workshop to launch a new program that will produce and donate face-coverings for select school districts across Colorado. Face-coverings are critical to slowing the transmission of COVID-19, and this unique partnership will address several challenges facing Colorado’s workforce and the health and safety of our public schools, while also embracing opportunities to highlight the arts, advance job placement programs, outdoor industries and provide needed face coverings to rural communities.

Fey has also engaged Governor Polis’ policy advisors and a suite of OREC-specific stakeholder groups to inform policy discussions in responding to the impacts of COVID-19. Participation has spanned the state and included guides and outfitters, outdoor education, ski industry, retail and winter outdoor recreation. These discussions helped inform key recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the Colorado Department of Public Health’s reopening and operations guidance during COVID-19 recovery. . 

As part of OREC’s work on the Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization and Growth, the office recommended the implementation of a new Civilian Conservation Corps-style workforce, an idea that is being championed by Representative Joe Neguse. This CCC concept, also supported by the United States Department of Agriculture, Outdoor Alliance and other industry partners, would address public lands infrastructure backlogs and create needed jobs. 

OREC also advocates for the expansion of educational opportunities and enhancing the workforce pipeline as key to supporting Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy. The OREC office works closely with numerous continuing education institutions to ensure the outdoor recreation industry is considered in their program offerings, now numbering more than 64 certificate or degree programs offered by Colorado institutions. The University of Colorado created the Master of Science in Outdoor Recreation Economy with admission offered beginning in 2021 and Colorado Mesa University began offering an undergraduate degree in outdoor recreation studies. The OREC office is also supporting Colorado Northwestern Community College in reinstituting its outdoor recreation program this year. Each of these supports a thriving outdoor recreation economy and provides the diverse skill sets needed to support the Colorado workforce.

The OREC office recently partnered with other Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade offices - the Colorado Tourism Office, the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media and Business Funding and Incentives - to support a live stream of the international Ouray Ice Festival which provided worldwide reach for one of rural Colorado’s most iconic events.

This global opportunity showcased Colorado’s outstanding tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities,  laying the foundation for future tourism spending.

“We continue to be active in thoughtful economic development of the industry, while also supporting our other industry pillars of conservation and stewardship, education and workforce, and health and wellness,” said Fey.