Utah governor unveils outdoor recreation plan

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013
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"The tent was way better than I thought it would be, but it's still a tent," Gardner said.

Jay Rossbach, sales director for Hotmocs, had to stay at hotel in West Jordan, a Salt Lake City suburb about 15 miles south of the convention center. But he said he can't see the show anywhere else, and hopes more hotels are built in downtown Salt Lake City.

"Please don't put it in Vegas," said Rossbach, whose company sells beanies and neck gators.

Salt Lake City has plenty of nearby skiing and outdoor activities and is not too overwhelming for many who come from small mountain towns, said Taylor Mallard, marketing manager for Bozeman, Mont.-based Oboz Footwear.

"To me, Salt Lake makes perfect sense— minus the space issue," Mallard said. "It's like a mountain town, only bigger."

Two weeks ago, the state approved a $2.66 million grant to build a 150,000-square-foot exhibition tent near the city's convention center to add space for the show. Officials also are exploring temporary lodging options, including lodging at the University of Utah campus.

Sales of outdoor products and sporting goods bring $5.8 billion to Utah's economy every year and $60 million in state and local sales taxes. Utah's tourism is driven by visitors enjoying of the state's canyons, mountains and desert areas, and the state has highest the percentage of outdoor and sporting good jobs in the country.

Alan Matheson, the governor's environmental adviser, said the state also recognizes that easy access to outdoor activities attracts businesses in other industries, such as high-tech companies.

The state's new outdoors plan is a great first step, but now the details need to be hammered out, said Ashley Korenblat, president of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, a mountain biking town that draws people from around the world. Korenblat said upcoming outdoor gear shows offer a chance to check in every six months see if the state is producing results.

"That will prohibit this vision from being another binder on the shelf just gathering dust," she said.

Though she finds the plan encouraging, she said the "elephant in the room" remains the state's federal lands grab. There's still a lot of industry concern with the way those lands would be managed if the state took control, she said.

Matheson said that if the state did control those spaces, it doesn't mean they'd sell them all off or use all the land for energy development.

"The people of Utah love these lands — love our natural gems. And we're not going to do anything to lose those treasures," he said.

The governor, who is a big proponent of energy development, said the state would do a better job than the federal government of juggling the demands of the energy and outdoor industries.

"It should be a balanced approach," Herbert said. "Not everything should be protected, and not everything should be developed."

Herbert dodged a bullet by keeping the trade show in Utah, said one business leader who quit Herbert's outdoor recreation advisory council in protest over the Republican governor's policies.

"I think it's a meaningful first step," said Peter Metcalf, president and chief executive of Salt Lake City-based Black Diamond Inc., a manufacturer of outdoor gear. "It states how important outdoor recreation is to Utah — our public lands, waterways and clean air.

"I'm gratified — but now comes the real work," he said. "Utah has been ground zero for radical policies threatening our public lands."

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Associated Press writer Paul Foy contributed to this report.