COVID-19’s Silver Lining: Passion for the Outdoors

The pandemic and its lockdown restrictions triggered a renewed passion for the great outdoors where people could have fun with little risk of becoming infected by COVID-19. But even as America returns to pre-COVID-19 normalcy, statistics show that our love affair with Mother Nature endures.

According to The Boston Globe, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, which boasts 18 miles of trails, enjoyed a 15% increase in membership this past year, twice its normal increase.

“We have always done free guided walks on our properties,” said Dexter C. Mead, the trust’s executive director. “We used to do them once a month (pre-COVID-19) and now we are doing them three times a month and they are filling up really quickly.”

Boston, like many cities, saw a surge in outdoor activities and invested in more bike trails and bike lanes for residents. According to the Globe, approximately six miles of temporary bike lanes that were quickly erected using orange cones last spring have now become permanent structures.

Along with increased accessibility for bikes, Vineet Gupta, planning director for the city’s transportation department, said that bike sharing has become popular in Boston. The Bluebikes system has seen “significant growth,” Gupta said. The bike-sharing system operates in 10 municipalities in the Greater Boston area and offers weekly, monthly, and annual memberships.

The Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit conservation organization that manages more than 100 properties in Massachusetts with over 40,000 acres and 350 trails, has seen a whopping 37% increase in membership between March 2020 and March 2021, according to its data.

In Oklahoma, people in the outdoors industry agree there has been a silver lining to the pandemic. Gary Dollahon, the proprietor of a public relations company that represents some of the biggest manufacturers in the fishing industry, tells an ABC News affiliate in Wetumpka, Alabama, that he’s seen a 10% to 15% increase in the number of people using outdoor recreation facilities.

He says that when COVID-19 hit, “the only option for people to have recreation and social distancing was getting outdoors, and certainly fishing was one of the greatest benefactors of that opportunity.” Dollahon adds that the fishing industry welcomed first-time anglers, seasoned anglers who renewed their interest, and regular fishermen who did a lot more outings.

“And just about any state game and fish department will tell you that they have definitely sold more licenses this last year versus any previous years,” he said.

The interest in outdoor-related activities also caused a shortage of sporting equipment. According to ABC News, Terry Kelly, with Island Cove Marina in Chattanooga, Tennessee, admits his business is booming.

“I’m getting boats, but they go out as quick as we can get them in,” he said. “Last year was our best year ever and so far, this year is even better.”

Lee Pitts, a seasoned fishing guide in Alabama, has seen a massive increase in the demand for his services.

“I’ve had more phone calls over the last 15 months than ever before,” he told ABC News. “People are regaining the passion for the outdoors. In my business it’s been a whole different group of people that I’ve gotten to enjoy fishing with this last year and I’m seeing more families.”

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