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Guest column: Enjoying Ohio’s natural resources

COLUMBUS – For a lot of folks, some of our earliest, and fondest, memories involve a fishing trip with a parent or grandparent, a relaxing day on a boat with a gentle breeze and still waters, or a fall hike to see the leaves that are changing color. Many of these occasions took place in an Ohio State Park. Fortunately for Ohio, more and more people are creating new memories for a lifetime in our state parks.

A recent report issued by Michigan State University for Ohio and other Midwestern states confirmedwhat many of us have known for years: Ohio is rich in natural resources and our economy benefits from our utilization, enjoyment and preservation of Ohio’s natural treasures.

One of the most popular forms of recreation is boating. Last year, Ohio ranked ninth in the country in the number of watercraft registered with 412,578. These boats and the recreational boating industry generate about $3.5 billion for Ohio’s economy and support more than 26,000 jobs, according to a new study by Michigan State University’s Great Lakes Commission and the Recreational Marine Research Center. While much of this activity focuses on Lake Erie, boating in lakes around the 91st District, including Buckeye Lake, Deer Creek, Lake Logan and Burr Oak Lake, not only provide enjoyment for thousands of Ohioans each year, but also provide a much needed boost to local economies.

While some folks do not see the benefit of spending state tax dollars on areas that are only used for recreation, all Ohioans benefit from the enjoyment and preservation of Ohio’s natural resources by in-state and out-of-state visitors. According to the Ohio Department of Development, approximately 37% of visitors to Ohio come between July and September, and no doubt many come in order to take advantage of Ohio’s natural wonders, many of which are nearby. In addition, tourism provides approximately 560,000 full-time jobs to Ohio and creates $9.9 billion in wages.

Locally, hikers from all over Ohio and the United States make Hocking Hills State Park one of the biggest tourist destinations in Ohio. Over 2 million people visited the park last year and, according to the Hocking Hills Tourism Association, studies shows that visitor expenditures in 2005 had an impact of $267.6 million in Hocking County with $6.6 million of that money going to local taxes.

While our natural resources provide wonderful opportunities for economic benefit, it is important for us to keep in mind the importance of preservation. After all, if these natural treasures disappear, the economic benefits will disappear along with them. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and members of the Ohio General Assembly are dedicated to enforcing and adopting regulations and laws to ensure that we can preserve what we have for future generations to create a lifetime of memories.

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