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State News: August 2009


Added Attraction

Recovery Act Helps States in Other Ways

While states will reap benefits from the National Park Service funding to improve attractions at that level, some states are using stimulus dollars to spruce up their own park system, while at the same time putting people back to work.
Ohio is one of several states using stimulus dollars to employ young people to improve parks, trails and natural assets throughout the state. California, Indiana, New York and Tennessee have launched similar jobs programs for conservation work on public lands.
Ohio’s Recovery Conservation Corps—a partnership between the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Job and Family Services—has identified maintenance repair and improvement projects in state parks, wildlife, forestry, and natural areas and preserves divisions that need work, according to a press release from the Natural Resources Department.
“This program makes sense in many different ways,” said Sean Logan, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “But primarily, putting people to work as well as education, in terms of learning jobs skills, as well as helping our natural resources be even better places for the public to visit and have a great experience in the outdoors.”
The program has more than 300 shovel-ready projects marked for the workers, said Beth Ruth, media relations director for the department. The state’s Recovery Conservation Corps is similar to the federal Civilian Conservation Corps created during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930s.
“It’s the same principle where you have conservation work on public lands that need people to do it, and so we’re bringing opportunities for employment, job training to the members who participate in the new RCC,” Ruth said.
But beyond that, the projects will be a boost to tourism, said Amir Eylon, Ohio’s state tourism director.
“Anything that we can do to maintain and even enhance the experience at our state parks will be a benefit,” Eylon said. “We know through our research that many visitors to our parks don’t just come and have a great time at the parks. They also stop at communities on their way in and out.”
And, Eylon said, visitor research shows that outdoor experiences—at both national and state parks—are one of the leading factors for leisure travel in Ohio. In fact, he said, one of every six trips taken to or within Ohio is primarily taken for an outdoor experience.
In addition, the state is a regional drive destination; many visitors come via automobile. The majority of leisure travelers come from within a 300-mile radius of the state’s borders.
“Anything that makes our marketplace that much more accessible is very important to us,” said Eylon.
That means federal stimulus dollars spent on transportation will also help tourism in Ohio, as well as many other states.
Minnesota, for example, expects the transportation dollars to have a huge indirect benefit to tourism there. John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, said the state just completed a series of focus groups and surveys about the important issues facing tourism.
“Transportation is one of my primary concerns,” he said.
In addition to road improvements, Minnesota plans to use some of the stimulus dollars for Department of Transportation-run travel information centers throughout the state, Edman said.
All the improvements tied to the stimulus will improve a state’s infrastructure, said Eylon. And that’s a key to economic development in general.
“There’s a whole slew of opportunities here which, when you start adding this up, really has a potential to enhance our destination’s appeal,” he said. “If you’re seen as an area with a robust tourism infrastructure, it speaks to the infrastructure of that community as being able to handle other types of businesses and industry as well. Not to mention from a citizenship perspective, having such a great infrastructure helps generate pride in one’s sense of place as well.”
—Mary Branham is managing editor for State News magazine.
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