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Outdoor recreation has long been a great way to connect all Iowans to our beautiful state. Over 56 million visits are made to Iowa’s parks, trails, lakes and rivers each year. Outdoor recreation is also a huge economic driving force: Annually, outdoor recreation in Iowa generates $8.7 billion in consumer spending, $649 million in local and state tax revenue and 83,000 direct jobs. The quality of life provided by outdoor recreation opportunities is key to attracting skilled workforces, increased tourism and rural revitalization.
Yet, Iowa’s ability to capitalize on the economic opportunities of outdoor recreation is stunted by limited resources. Less than 3 percent of Iowa’s land is open to the public, ranking 47th in the nation. Further, these lands and their facilities require upkeep and maintenance that has been underfunded, with 94 of Iowa’s counties reporting unmet needs totaling over $782 million.
One way that the state of Iowa has invested in outdoor recreation is with the Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP). Created in 1989, REAP uses funds from Iowa’s gaming receipts to support the state’s natural and cultural resources in each county. To date, REAP has supported over 14,500 projects. Despite its success, REAP has never been fully funded, only receiving $12 million last year. Without renewal from the state legislature, REAP will end in June 2021.
To support outdoor recreation, INHF recommends that REAP be fully funded at $20 million and that the DNR funding be increased to properly manage facilities and make more land available for public use.