The business of fun
Group forms to protect outdoor recreation and those who depend on it

The business of fun

The outdoors are big business, locally and throughout Colorado. Now, a group – the Southwest Colorado Outdoor Recreation Alliance, aka SWCORA – has formed to help protect the area's outdoor recreational amenities and those who depend on them./ Photo by Stephen Eginoire

Joy Martin - 08/29/2019

Wet and wild. Hard and dirty. Public or private. Whichever way you prefer your outdoor recreation, Southwest Colorado offers the Baskin Robbins of flavors. For most of us, so long as our trails are maintained and accessible, our river permits occasionally won and our winters abundantly packed with powder, we might not give a moment’s thought to our civil right to pursue sun-soaked happiness.

But for those whose livelihoods hang on the whims of the climate, the gifts of the seasons and the purse strings and policies of the federal government, outdoor recreation is serious business. The battles are personal and particular and range from economic bottom lines to conservation and stewardship, from education and workforce to health and wellness.

At least these four “pillars” are how the State of Colorado divides our sizeable outdoor recreation economy, which accounts for more than $37 billion in consumer spending, provides four times as many jobs as the oil and gas industry and introduces a host of fresh acronyms into an acronym-saturated world. Here are three new ones we’ll let soak in for a bit: OREC, SWCORA and COILSx. You’ve been warned, ADHD-ers.

Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) was launched in 2015 by former Gov. (and presidential candidate, sniff) John Hickenlooper as the second of its kind in the nation. Nowadays, there are 15 OREC’s, with New Mexico joining as the latest newb. OREC serves as a central point of contact, resource hub and advocate at the state level for the diverse businesses and communities that rely on the outdoor recreation economy.

Our regional spinoff of OREC is a local, grassroots, nonaffiliated organization called the Southwest Colorado Outdoor Recreation Alliance (SWCORA). The year-old nucleus was created to support businesses, nonprofits and individual voices of our area’s very unique, very supreme, very humble outdoor recreation industry. And because our beloved peaks, alpine meadows, free-flowing rivers and pine-clad mesas can’t speak for themselves.

In May, OREC partnered with SWCORA to present the first-ever Southwest Colorado Outdoor Leadership Summit (COILSx) at Osprey Headquarters in Cortez. After the event, which drew 60 local outdoor rec leaders, COILSx panelist Lisa Branner stepped forward to lead SWCORA and sit on OREC’s Advisory Council. So Southwest Colorado now has a voice at the table and thus better access to potential funds and resources otherwise only allocated to I-70 and I-25 locales.

A 10-year resident of Silverton, Branner is the community relations manager for the Town of Silverton and co-founder of Silverton-based Venture Snowboards, where she’s headed up sales, marketing and public relations since the company’s founding in 1999. Her career also includes work with natural science organizations, like Mountain Studies Institute, Durango Nature Studies and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Branner is currently spearheading the Kendall Mountain Recreation Area master planning process and the Silverton Area Trails Plan – both focused on economic expansion and year-round population growth through outdoor recreation. Folks can meet Branner and learn more about the plans at the next SWCORA happy hour, today, Aug. 29, from 5-7 p.m. at the Rochester Hotel Secret Garden.

While this gathering will focus on Silverton, the overarching goal of SWCORA is to wrangle anyone who holds stake in Southwest Colorado’s outdoor rec industry, from manufacturers like Tailwind Nutrition and Alpacka Rafts to Fort Lewis College’s Adventure Education program and the newly formed 4C group collecting data on cycling industry economic impacts. SWCORA also welcomes those who go to the mattresses for the innumerable challenges facing our pretty little paradise, like bighorn sheep population threats, natural disasters, the suicide and mental health crises, ebikes on singletrack, and chainsaws in the wilderness.

So if you can’t make it to this event, sign up for SWCORA’s monthly-ish newsletter at southwestoutdoors.org to stay in the loop, and share your news, updates, events, ideas and volunteer opportunities with swcora members@gmail.com. TTYL!

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