Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Affiliation of the Pikes Peak Region or Outside Colorado Springs?
No matter what it’s called, a new industry group could mean big things for playing outside in Southern Colorado.
“ORIA is in the throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks mode,” said David Leinweber, the founding member of the group and owner of Angler’s Covey, a fly fishing retailer in Colorado Springs. “Even our name is being discussed before we go to the state for nonprofit status.”
ORIA launched at an event Jan. 20 at the Colorado Springs Bike Shop, and the group will work closely with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, which is operating in its first year as part of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Luis Benitez, director of the state’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said his office, along with local groups, could help legitimize outdoor recreation and affiliated careers as a major economic driver for the state and region.
“Jobs in outdoor industries have been seen as for alternative lifestyles and not necessarily a career path,” Benitez said. “In Colorado, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, horseback guides are part of a multi-billion dollar economic engine for the state. We’re exploring how leaders in those industries are cultivated.”
ORIA is comprised of industry representatives from within the local outdoor recreation nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Leinweber said there will be several focuses to start.
“First, our target is to truly grow the outdoor recreation economy, but we want to be sustainable. We don’t want another Incline,” Leinweber said of the overcrowded Manitou Springs attraction. “It’s amazing to have the problem of too many people, but we don’t want the entire region to become like that. That said, there’s plenty of room for growth in outdoor businesses and participation.”
Leinweber said the group will also collaborate to draw outdoor recreation businesses here.
“We’ll go after them like any other company — like bringing in a Boeing or an Intel,” he said.
Leinweber said another focus will be promoting regional quality of life issues to attract remote workers.
“One of the largest employers in Buena Vista is Hewlett-Packard,” Leinweber said of employees working remotely. “People who work online can live anywhere.”
Leinweber said an upcoming project for the group will be an outdoor recreation day June 4 in Memorial Park as part of a collaboration with the city’s Parks Department.
“Hopefully you’ll be able to learn to drive an ATV, or try a stand up paddle board, or fish, or shoot an arrow,” he said of the free event. “We’re trying to make it an entire ‘get outdoors’ day.”
Leinweber said ORIA will also pilot a website that will provide enthusiasts with a single place to search for anything involving regional outdoor recreation, to include fishing and ski conditions, rock climbing spots, and trails for snowshoeing and mountain biking.
“It will be a one-stop spot for the community to learn where to go to do anything outdoors,” he said. “We’ll look to our business partners as resources to develop content.”
Together at last
Jennifer Peterson is executive director of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Field Institute and a member of the group. She said recreation and tourism “help define the Pikes Peak region. There is growing interest from many sectors to strategically market the region as a world-renowned outdoor destination. The ORIA was formed to actively engage industry professionals and other relevant stakeholders in this endeavor.”
RMFI is a 501(c)3 Colorado Springs-based conservation group in Southern Colorado. Peterson said the organization brings to the group a “unique nonprofit perspective on the outdoor recreation industry and the broader branding initiatives. Colorado Springs has one of the highest concentrations of nonprofit organizations in the state. As an organized and collective voice, the environmental, outdoor industry and recreation-focused nonprofits are well-positioned to have a strong voice in these branding efforts to promote outdoor recreation as well as the conservation and stewardship of our region’s great natural landscapes.”
John Wilson is vice president of economic development with the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and an ORIA member. Wilson said the group should enhance an already robust outdoor industry.
“The Business Alliance is excited about our new outdoor recreation team,” he said. “Colorado Springs will entertain more visitors who will stay at our hotels, shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants and best of all, play in our big, fun outdoors.”
Wilson said Colorado business owners receive more revenue ($13.2 billion) than any other contiguous state.
“This will grow the $13 billion revenue stream and ensure that people recognize that America’s Mountain and its surroundings offer a great place to enjoy the outdoors.”