Schumer calls for new investment in New York’s outdoor industry | Business

Dayana Jones

KINDERHOOK — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., visited Columbia County on Friday to outline new legislation aimed at invigorating the state’s outdoor industry.

Schumer chose a section of the Empire State Trail in Kinderhook as the site to discuss the Rural Outdoor Investment Act at a news conference.

“Outside tourism is a booming industry for us,” Schumer said. “And despite this, federal investment has remained low for programs that support outdoor recreation. We have lots of federal programs to encourage manufacturing, encourage small business, encourage lots of different things, but we don’t have much to encourage outdoor tourism, and that’s why I’m here today.”

The Rural Outdoor Investment Act is designed to get the federal government to enhance and invest in rural outdoor areas, Schumer said.

New York’s outdoor recreation industry generates more than $21 billion in additional economic activity and $15.9 billion in salaries and wages, Schumer said. New York’s outdoor recreation industry provides 240,000 jobs.

The legislation does three things: invests in outdoor recreation infrastructure, supports communities with money for planning and offers business assistance.

Outdoor infrastructure has historically been underfunded, Schumer said. Columbia County, he said, has terrific waterfronts in many of the towns, but access to them is limited because of the lack of boat ramps, boardwalks and other outdoor facilities.

“The bill creates a $150 million grant program each year for outdoor recreation infrastructure, through the EDA (Economic Development Administration),” Schumer said.

Money for planning will go to small towns and villages to help with items such as marketing, branding, business development, fundraising and tourism management. Schumer said the legislation would provide $25 million over five years in planning grants for communities to create recreation economy plans, and $12.5 million over five years for university partnerships to promote research, education and technical assistance to local stakeholders and businesses.

“A lot of our villages have great ideas, but you know you can’t just have a great idea,” Schumer said. “You need to plan it, you need to hire an engineer, an architect, a planner to do it.”

Business assistance will help recreation-related businesses such as outdoor gear and equipment rentals, shuttles, guides and outfitters in addition to hotels, restaurants and retail, Schumer said. The legislation would invest $62.5 million for the recreational economies of rural communities.

“This bill is, of course, about the outdoors,” Schumer said. “Connecting with nature, getting exercise, staying healthy, enjoying the beauty of the globe. But it’s also about a four-letter word — J-O-B-S jobs.”

This type of activity brings people into the towns and villages and helps create jobs, Schumer said.

The positive to come out of the pandemic has been people discovering the beauty of this area, he said. Outdoor Magazine ranked the Empire State Trail the best rail trail in America last month.

“What was No. 1? Was it Yellowstone? Was it Moab Canyon?” Schumer asked the crowd of about 30 people. “It was right here. Here it is folks. The 25 best rail trails in the United States. No. 1: Empire State Trail.”

The trail attracts thousands of people to the county and to small municipalities such as Kinderhook every year, Schumer said.

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