Half of B.C.’s residents recreate outdoors

Study finds hiking the most popular outdoor activity in B.C.; outdoor recreation contributes $3.6 billion to the provincial economy

Half of the B.C. population takes part in outdoor recreation at least once a year, injecting $3.6 billion into the economy in a year.

That’s the finding of a new report by Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management for the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. (FMCBC).

Released in March 2014, the report, “Non-Motorized Outdoor Recreation in British Columbia in 2012: Participation and Economic Contributions”, randomly polled B.C. residents in March 2013, basing the questions on activities undertaken in 2012.

More than 1,000 B.C. residents completed the online survey, which was initiated by the FMCBC to investigate non-motorized outdoor recreation across the province.

“Since B.C. boasts 95 per cent Crown land, many of these outdoor recreation opportunities are located on public land, and therefore are an important component of land-use planning and management decision-making. Outdoor recreation also stimulates economic activity as participants purchase equipment, permits, and engage in travel to their preferred settings. Additionally, participation in outdoor recreation contributes to the physical health of the people who engage in it, improving quality of life and reducing impacts on the public health care system,” reads the report.

Of those 1,000 respondents, 49.5 per cent said they had participated in at least one form of outdoor recreation in 2012, and 48 per cent engaged in non-motorized outdoor recreation.

The five most popular activities were hiking, with 39.5 per cent of people participating, distantly followed by fishing (17.8 per cent), boating (13.2 per cent), snowshoeing (11.2 per cent) and skiing at ski hills (10.6 per cent).

“The large number of respondents who engaged in the more accessible summer and winter activities (hiking and snowshoeing, respectively) speaks to the importance of enjoyment of outdoors as part of the regional culture of British Columbians,” reads the report.

Of those who said they had participated in an outdoor activity, 86.9 per cent said they had been hiking at least once in 2012.

The study found that recreational users spent about $3.6 billion pursuing outdoor activities in 2012.

“Not only do the activities examined by this survey contribute directly to the economy of the province, they do so on a significant scale,” the report states.

Hikers spent on average $74 a day, while climbers spent on average $116 a day.

On equipment related to their activity, those participating in hunting, fishing and horseback riding spent the most – on average $1,751. By comparison, winter activities were cheapest, averaging $1,233.

People travelled on average 623 kilometres to access a non-motorized outdoor activity, the survey found.

Climbers travelled the furthest, being the most common to report travelling more than 600 kilometres. By contrast, kayakers and others who participated in non-motorized water sports stayed within five kilometres of home the most often.

“Conservative estimates suggest that residents of the province collectively travelled more than 1.3 billion kilometres to engage in non-motorized outdoor recreation in the year 2012 and that the direct economic contributions of their participation topped $3.5 billion even before equipment purchases were considered,” says the report.

But in general, the vast majority of outdoor recreation activities were undertaken within 100 kilometres of home.

Compared to people living in the Lower Mainland, residents of regional B.C. spent more time undertaking outdoor recreation, often double, triple or higher the participation rate.

Outside the Lower Mainland, residents were more likely to take part in mountain biking, hiking, fishing and winter activities.

In the Lower Mainland, residents generally participated in activities that don’t have a heavy investment in equipment, such as hiking, trail running, and climbing.