You’ve heard that Virginia is for lovers, but state officials are hoping you’ll also soon think of the Commonwealth as a home for outdoor lovers too.
Each year, the outdoor recreation industry – which includes activities like mountain biking and kayaking – brings in nearly $22 billion to the Virginia economy.
On Thursday at Carvins Cove in the Roanoke Valley, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new state agency – the Office of Outdoor Recreation – that seeks to capitalize on all those outdoor activities.
Northam says the office will serve two main purposes:
“One is to promote our parks, to promote all of the outdoor activities that we have," he explains. "And also, to promote businesses. Obviously, the kayaks behind me, the campers, bicycles – to have these manufacturers be in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s just a win-win situation if we put all of this together.”
The agency will coordinate with other state entities focusing on the environment and natural resources – including the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Virginia is the 15th state in the country to establish some sort of agency geared towards strengthening the outdoor industry.
The news comes after the release of campaign finance reports this week showing Northam’s political action committee recently accepted donations from developers of two controversial natural gas pipeline projects.
When asked about the donations, the Democratic governor pivoted to campaign finance reform:
"I will wait and see what the results of the November election are, but certainly if I can get some more like-minded people I will address campaign finance reform. But until then, no changes are going to take place," he said.
Finance disclosures show Northam’s PAC accepted $10,000 from developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It also brought in a $7,500 donation from Dominion – the company working on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.