The Surfrider Foundation, in partnership with Point 97 and the state of Washington, recently completed the Washington Coastal and Ocean Recreation Study and today released the final report. The study collected economic and spatial data on “non-consumptive” recreational uses such as beach going, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking and biking, and surfing. These recreational uses are widely practiced along the extent of Washington’s coast (Pacific Coast & Strait of Juan de Fuca). Information from the study will be used as part of the state’s marine spatial planning process, which is a collaborative endeavor to analyze and allocate the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine environments to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives.
As expected, coastal recreation provides significant economic and social benefits to coastal communities and the state—these include direct expenditures, as well as social benefits such as citizen enjoyment. In 2014, Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the coast, with nearly 60 percent indicating their primary purpose was recreation. That recreation included a variety of activities including beach going (67%), sightseeing (62%), photography (36%) hiking and biking (33%), surfing/kayaking/boating (7%) and wildlife viewing (40%). When at the coast, the average respondent spent $117.14 per trip, translating to an estimated $481 million dollars in total direct expenditures for coastal communities and the state, through hotel visits, shopping, dining and other trip-related expenditures.
“This study offers new information about recreation patterns that provide significant economic benefit to Washington’s coastal communities,” says Casey Dennehy, the Washington Coastal Program Manager for the Surfrider Foundation and recreational representative on the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council. “The data will be used by various organizations to identify ways for improving access and to protect recreation areas as demand for coastal and ocean resources increase.”
Information was collected from recreational users through an online survey between June 2014 and February 2015. The survey included a mapping tool that allowed participants to mark locations of recreational use along the Washington coast. More than 250 recreational groups and businesses throughout the state were contacted, and respondents completed nearly 6,500 surveys resulting in over 17,500 data points.
Coastal recreation is widely practiced throughout the United States, but little data exists on what activities people participate in, where these uses occur, and the related economic benefits. To address this need, Surfrider and Point 97 have conducted similar studies across the U.S., including completed efforts in Oregon and the Mid-Atlantic, and a recently launched study in the Northeast. For more information about the Surfrider Foundation’s recreational use studies, check out our Coastal Recreation Studies Page.