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People spending more time outdoors; governments encouraged to spend more

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 6:39 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - You may have turned to more outdoor activities since we began living in a pandemic. Now there are numbers to prove more people are heading outside.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum says outdoor recreation skyrocketed in 2020 as Wisconsinites found an outlet after the pandemic eliminated other ways we spend our free time.

From hiking in state parks to deer hunting, the Wisconsin Policy Forum report released Thursday shows a sharp rise in outdoor activities last year.

“Our operations were just busting at the seam,” Brown County Parks Director Matt Kriese said. “We found that to the point where we almost had capacity issues.”

“Last spring it was crazy how many people were out here walking. I don’t have a number but just people out on the trails, I have never seen so many people,” Jody Sperduto, a naturalist at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay, said.

The report found over the past year a 42% increase in the purchase of state park vehicle stickers, a 33% increase in trail pass purchases, and a 26% increase in the sales of sporting goods last year.

The Brown County parks director tells Action 2 News activity at least doubled since the pandemic began.

“We are well over a million users in 2020 for the Brown County Parks System,” he said.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum suggests policymakers consider increasing state and local budgets for parks and other public lands because of the higher demand.

“I know throughout the course of this pandemic the county board is aware of the increase of need, demand and use of the park areas, and I feel like between our elected officials and our department, we’re working very well together,” Kriese said.

Officials with the parks expect outdoor recreation will remain popular in 2021, especially as the weather starts to warm up.

“Even today there’s just a lot of people out here walking around, a lot of families just looking for some place to go and something to do to get out of their house and get outside,” Sperduto said.

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