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Outdoor Recreation & Tourism: A Look at the Numbers

in Column/Range Writing/Recreation/Tourism
Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Tourism:
2267

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that outdoor recreation contributes 4.4. percent of Wyoming’s gross domestic product. That’s something to celebrate, with Wyoming’s percentage among the highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii, Montana, and Maine.

According to the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, outdoor recreation “contributes $1.6 billion to Wyoming’s economy” and “accounts for 23,036 jobs or 8 percent of total employment in Wyoming which is the highest in the nation. Those jobs also account for 4.7 percent of total compensation in the state, which is second in the nation behind Hawaii at 5.1 percent.”

Curious about how these numbers are compiled, I turned to the BEA website for the details, including the methodology used in these estimates. The BEA report attempts to isolate the economic activity associated with outdoor recreation spending and production within a state’s economy.

The largest chunk (72%) of the $1.6 billion outdoor recreation value contributed to the state’s economy is in the form of “supporting outdoor recreation,” primarily via travel and tourism (food, beverages, lodging, shopping, souvenirs, and transportation) more than 50 miles from home.

Another 20% of that $1.6 billion is classified as “conventional” outdoor recreation such as bicycling, boating, fishing, climbing/camping/hiking, hunting, shooting sports, motorcycle/all-terrain vehicle use, recreational flying, RVing, snow activities (skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, dog mushing), and other conventional outdoor activities such as skating, rafting, rock hounding, races, running/walking/jogging, and wildlife watching and birding.

The remaining 8% is “other” outdoor recreation including amusement/water parks, festivals, sporting events, concerts, guided tour and outfitted travel, gardening, game areas (tennis and golf), field sports, swimming, yard sports, and multi-use apparel and accessories (bug spray, sunscreen, coolers, GPS equipment, watches, backpacks, etc.).

The new BEA report puts outdoor recreation’s contribution to Wyoming’s economy at $1.6 billion, and I understand the methodology used to generate that number. Seeking more information about our state’s top industries, I turned to the Wyoming Business Council’s industry profiles, where I read that the #2 industry in Wyoming is tourism, with “$5.6 billion consumer spending on outdoor rec.”

Although the business council suggests “50,000 jobs created by outdoor rec – more than oil, gas, mining and extraction combined,” the BAE reports the total outdoor recreation employment level in Wyoming is just over 23,000 people in 2017. It took some searching, but I found that the numbers cited by the Wyoming Business Council came from the trade group Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). The bottom line is that the OIA’s numbers were about double the numbers released by the BEA, apparently because they used a different methodology.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism uses yet another number: “domestic and international visitors in Wyoming spent $3.8 billion” in the state in 2018, with the state’s tourism industry supporting 32,290 full and part-time jobs.”

Further digging revealed that the State of Wyoming’s website description of the state’s economy is sadly outdated, with most recent statistics more than a decade old. That same state information page still lists Matt Mead as Wyoming’s governor, an indication of neglecting to keep up with the times.

Curious about the state’s other top industries, I looked for agricultural statistics. The Wyoming Business Council’s estimate of $1.8 billion in agriculture worth to the state’s economy annually was an easy one, since that number comes from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the majority of that number ($1.44 billion) is simply cash receipts for ag products sold (cattle, sheep, hogs, hay, sugarbeets, corn, etc.). But those statistics don’t attempt to demonstrate the total value of ag spending in the state (such as the sales of vehicles, machinery, equipment, veterinary services and supplies, outdoor clothing and farm/ranch supplies, etc.) or the investment in ag facilities and properties.

Mining (oil, gas, trona, and coal) have ranked #1 in contributions to Wyoming’s economy, providing substantial revenues to governments, employing workers, and gross production values. But with so much upheaval in various segments of the state’s mining industry in the last few years, and wary of the importance of what was being measured or and how it was being valued, I gave up trying.

I don’t doubt the importance of the outdoor recreation industry, and my guess is that the BAE report is the closest to being accurate, but it also has its limitations. All these assessments for various industry sectors sum up what we already knew: they compare apples to oranges and every segment of Wyoming’s economy is important.

What we can agree on is that the majority of people in Wyoming participate in outdoor recreation, whether it’s rig hands stopping to admire a bull moose on the way to work on a drilling rig, a parent purchasing a child’s first bicycle, or a rancher taking new neighbors out to visit a local sage grouse lek. We’re all in this together.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Outdoor recreation major contributor to Wyoming’s economy

in News/Recreation/Tourism/wildlife
2188

By Cowboy State Daily

Outdoor activity in Wyoming contributes a larger share to the state’s economic activity than the majority of states, according to a federal report.

The report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that in 2017, outdoor recreation in Wyoming generated $1.6 billion, about 4.4 percent of the state’s economic activity, well above the national average of 2.2 percent.

And the industry in Wyoming shows no signs of slowing, said Dave Glenn, of the state’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, a division of the Parks and Cultural Resources Department.

“The RV industry’s continuing to grow, the mountain bike industry’s continuing to grow, the (off-highway vehicles), the snow machines, the fly fishing, hunting, all those thing are growing in the state of Wyoming,” he said.

Wyoming is behind only Hawaii, Montana, Maine and Vermont in terms of how much outdoor recreation contributes to the state’s economy. Nearly 8 percent of the state’s jobs are also in outdoor recreation, the highest figure in the nation.

Glenn said he believes the state is poised to see tremendous growth in outdoor recreation, thanks to its plentiful resources.

“I think we have the ability to double or triple that number,” he said. “Wyoming has the access to public lands, we’ve got our big three national parks, we have all kinds of national forests, (Bureau of Land Management land), Red Desert, all kinds of great country. We need to work on our infrastructure so when people come here, they have something to do and to stay longer as well.”

The Parks and Cultural Resources Department, along with the state Game and Fish Department, recently joined forces to promote activities on state lands by helping commemorate National Public Lands Day.

The observation on Sept. 28 was designed to encourage people to get out and enjoy their public lands.

“Whether it’s recreation, hunting, hiking, fishing, the Game and Fish (Department) properties are open to all that,” said Ray Bredehoft, with the department.

Bredehoft said his department is working to minimize conflicts between recreational users of the land and wildlife as the number of people using public lands grows.

“We’re trying to balance that, there’s always going to be some sort of conflict,” he said. “We’re here for the wildlife, to make sure they’re here for generations to come.”

Bringing back Wyoming’s grand Cowboy Carousel

in arts and culture/Community/News/Tourism
2127

Arnette Tiller of Buffalo, Wyoming is leading the charge to restore the world’s only cowboy and indian carousel and return it to operation in downtown Buffalo.

The Buffalo Carousel Project is working to repaint, restore and reopen the carousel for visitors and the community members alike.

Dubbed the Cowboy Carousel, all its horses were crafted and painted by local artists. The carousel itself originally ran in Ocean City, New Jersey starting in the 1920s at Gillian’s Play Park.

Top singer-songwriters to compete in Ten Sleep

in arts and culture/Tourism/Travel
2019 Singer-Songwriter Laramie Qualifying Round at the Alibi. (courtesy: Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition)
2048

Fans of Wyoming music will want to be in Ten Sleep this weekend for the state’s second annual Singer-Songwriter Competition.

The contest will see some of the state’s top singer-songwriters, as selected in competitions in 10 communities around Wyoming, compete for a chance to have one of their songs professionally recorded.

“Top to bottom, it will be great music,” said Jon Gardzelewski, founder of Wyoming Singer-Songwriters and an organizer of the competition. “It’s a great opportunity to hear and meet new people. Some of the best people writing and recording songs will be there from every corner of the state.”

Wyoming Singer-Songwriters for five years sponsored a Laramie competition before opening it up for artists from around the state in 2018.

The first year’s competition saw 75 musicians from around the state take part. This year, the number grew to 85, 37 of whom advanced from the preliminary rounds to the semi-finals.

“The first year, I twisted the arms of everybody I knew and that helped,” Gardzelewski said. “This year, I didn’t do that. I had my hands full with new venues — Rock Springs, Ten Sleep, Gillette — and each of those places had a wealth of new people who were not aware of the competition last year.”

The field of competitors at the weekend’s event will represent a broad mix of musicians, Garzelewski said.

“We’ve got a good mix of old and young, guys and girls, just a good diversity,” he said. “What people will find is they will hear somebody they just fall in love with and that person may not even make it to the finals, there’s so much good music.”

Judging in the preliminary rounds was handled by the musicians themselves. At this weekend’s contest, musicians performing at the Ten Sleep Brewing Co. will be joined as judges by panels of music professionals.

After four semi-final rounds beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and running through Saturday, eight musicians will advance to the grand finale, to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The champion as determined in voting by the musicians and the judges will receive $500, a headline performing spot at the Beartooth Music Festival in Cody, a performing spot at next year’s What Fest and a chance to record their song in a professional studio.

An additional event at this year’s contest will be a Traditional Song Challenge, where participating musicians will offer their versions of folk or traditional songs.

Tickets for the event cost $15 per day or $30 for the full competition. Those buying the full-access tickets will also receive a four-disk compilation of songs from the 2018 competition.

For more information, visit the Wyoming Singer-Songwriters website at WyomingSinger-Songwriters.com or check out their Facebook page.

For adventure close at hand, Cheyenne residents hike or bike Hidden Falls

in Recreation/Tourism
2008

On the plains of southeast Wyoming access to mountainous hiking and biking can seem at a distance.

Curt Gowdy State Park offers Cheyenne residents and visitors from northern Colorado a great escape that’s just minutes from the capital city.

The Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls trail is a particular gem in the state park. The 3.6 mile out and back trail leads to a charming little waterfall and offers terrain that is fun for families but challenging enough that everyone gets to feel those muscles working.

It’s not an hours drive to get outside. This is your reminder, southeastern Wyoming, take in the fall weather while it lasts at Curt Gowdy State Park.

Travel back in time through the ghost town of Kirwin, Wyoming

in Tourism/Travel
1959

Hop back in time to the era of stage coaches and mining camps through a visit to the abandoned mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming.

In the 19th century the bustling mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming featured a general store, mining office, and sawmill.

After an avalanche hit the town, killing three people and destroying property, the town slowly died out.

Visitors can make the trek to Kirwin, tucked high up in the Absaroka Mountains outside of Meeteetse, Wyoming, with the help of a good four-wheel drive vehicle.

The beauty of the area draws visitors each year.

Prior to her disappearance, famed aviator Amelia Earhart and her husband were captivated by the natural beauty of Kirwin and its surroundings. The couple began building a cabin just a mile from Kirwin but the project was never completed.

Sniffin: Linkages over the ages of time

in Bill Sniffin/Column/Tourism
Bill Sniffin
1950

By Bill Sniffin, My Wyoming column

From 1989 to 1994, I was a member of the Wyoming Travel Commission. Gov. Mike Sullivan appointed me to the post. I was chairman of that wonderful entity in 1992-1993.

The Director of Tourism was a wonderful man named Gene Bryan, a true legend in the travel business here in Wyoming. His life is full of great Wyoming stories. He even recently wrote a detailed book about the history of tourism marketing for the state.

But that’s another story for another time.

During my time on the Travel Commission, there was a bright young guy in Cheyenne who handled international travel for the Commission. It was the now famous author CJ Box. Coincidentally 28 years later, he is now vice-chairman of the state’s current version of the Travel Commission.

But that’s another story for another time.

Box and I formed a company to promote international travel as a result of that, which was called Rocky Mountain International.  Around 1997, I sold my interest to my partner, CJ Box.

I had founded it  in the early 1990s and well, we did some amazing things. Box did some even more amazing things after I sold him my interest.

But that’s another story for another time.

I took the money from the sale of my interest and bought a newspaper in Maui.  Wow, was this going to be fun!

My wife Nancy and I loved going to Hawaii and we thought a Wyoming-Hawaii connection could be just about the best thing ever.

The editor of our Maui newspaper was a part-time protestant minister named Ron Winckler.

Our adventures in the People’s Republic of Hawaii, were, well, partly good and mainly bad.

But that’s another story for another time.

Ron is a friend of mine on Facebook. He just posted the most amazing item, which I would like to repeat here:

“So, this is about is my mother-in-law, Charlotte. She’s 95, having been born in 1924.

“We were talking a couple of days ago. I asked about her childhood in San Diego. She brought up a man that used to come to her mother’s diner. She remembered his name, ‘Daddy’ Hayes and his age, almost 100-years-old.

“Daddy Hayes drove a horse-drawn wagon and collected scrap. He was born into slavery. Daddy Hayes, also told her that as a young adult, he had been present at President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863.

“In 2019 I was talking on the phone with a woman who once talked with a former slave who actually heard Lincoln speak!

“Beyond amazing!”

Now that’s another story I can read about any time.

Amen, Brother.

* * *

How many old-timers are there in Wyoming these days?

When I wrote a column some 18 months ago about the oldest people in Wyoming, we had folks ranging from 104 to 107 all over the state. Today, we are not sure if there is anyone over 102?

If you know of someone over 100, please let me know at bsniffin@wyoming.com.  I would like to include them in a future column.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Bringing the “Shine” Back to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

in News/Tourism
NPS / Jacob W. Frank
1939

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

After a year of remodeling and reconstruction, the historic Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park has been restored to its original grandeur, befitting the structure’s status as the primary lodging at the headquarters of America’s first national park.

At the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel reopening ceremony Xanterra’s Rick Hoeninghausen and National Park Service Project Manager Peter Galindo cut the cake in the freshly restored map room. (NPS / Jacob W. Frank)

At a ribbon-cutting Friday at Mammoth Hot Springs, visitors and dignitaries got a first look at the $30 million restoration, which Rick Hoeninghausen, sales and marketing director for Xanterra Travel Collection in Yellowstone, said brought the original “shine” back to the hotel.

Yellowstone and Xanterra partnered to preserve the historic look and feel of this important “art moderne” structure, one of the few of that type in the national park system. 

At the time of its construction in 1883, Mammoth (then called the “National Hotel”) was one of the “big four” lodges in Yellowstone, along with the Lake Hotel, the Old Faithful Inn, and Canyon Hotel.

Since its opening, the hotel has undergone several major structural changes. According to the Yellowstone Insider website, the fourth floor of the original hotel was removed in 1913 and a north wing was added. That north wing was the only portion of the hotel to survive a major renovation in 1936 and several cabins were added to the complex in 1938.  

Hoeninghausen said the most recent renovation was originally set to be a Park Service project, as they own the building, but Xanterra partnered with the Park Service to take the walls down to the studs and start from the basics.

“There was a shared bathroom on every hall, and there’s four floors, so about a third of the rooms in the hotel were without bathrooms,” said Hoeninghausen. 

Now, all the rooms have private baths, but that meant the hotel had to reduce the number of rooms from 97 to 79.

Hoeninghausen said in more than 75 years, there have been updates to carpeting, bedding, etc., but no major renovations.

“In the old wing, you’d walk down the hallway and wires would be exposed, plumbing would be exposed – not dangerously, but you could see them running along where the ceiling meets the walls,” he said.

A major emphasis of the newest renovation has been on sustainability and longevity, according to Hoeninghausen – this includes focusing on accessibility and reducing the building’s carbon footprint, as well as taking into account the geology of Yellowstone.

“Whenever we or the Park Service go into the major renovation of a building, one of the first things we look at is the foundation from a standpoint of seismic stability and meeting the current seismic codes,” said Hoeninghausen. 

He added that because Yellowstone sits on top of a “supervolcano”, meeting seismic standards was important. 

Another update to the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel this year was the rehabilitation of the famous wooden map in the Map Room. The map was designed by Robert Reamer in the 1930s – it contains more than 2500 pieces, and is made from 15 different types of wood. Reamer is perhaps best known for being the architect of the Old Faithful Inn, and also contributed to the current style of the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. 

“The fact that it’s been so long since it’s been updated, that’s where some that ‘shine’ had left,” Hoeninghausen added. “Now we have a hotel that’s historic, but in many ways it’s new, and it will preserve that historic building for many, many more generations. The Park deserves this.”

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel operates year-round, as the north entrance to the Park is the only gateway that remains open throughout the winter. Hoeninghausen said that because the hotel is at Mammoth, where Park Headquarters is located, a lot of VIP travelers come through, as well as the guests interested in wildlife watching and exploring the unique geographic features of the northern part of Yellowstone. 

Camping in The Shadows of Outlaws

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1921

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Outlaw Cave, Hole-in-the-Wall, the names conjure images of bandana-covered faces, men in black hats, and a posse hot on their heels. Twenty miles southwest of Kaycee, Wyoming, is a campground that offers a chance to walk in the footsteps of those lawless legends. 

Outlaw Cave Campground is located on the rim of Outlaw Canyon, 1000 feet above the middle fork of the Powder River. This majestic 12-site campground offers few amenities, but a wealth of scenery and adventure. Great fishing and hiking abound, but the real draw is the history.

Wild bunch
Front row left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick, alias the Tall Texan, Robert Leroy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy; standing: Will Carver, alias News Carver, & Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry; Fort Worth, Texas, 1900.

Between 1899 and 1901, Butch Cassidy (aka Robert Leroy Parker) and the Sundance Kid (aka Harry A. Longabaugh) were lawless members of Butch’s gang the Wild Bunch. The same Butch and Sundance immortalized by myth, legend and Hollywood films. The Wild Bunch was part of a loose organization of other gangs known collectively as The Hole-in-the Wall Gang. The Wild Bunch’s crimes were wide-ranging and included bank robbery, stagecoach and highway robbery and horse and cattle rustling. 

The Hole-in-the-Wall gang got its name from their base of operations, out of Hole-in-the-Wall Pass. These desperadoes were outlaws on the run and one of their many hideouts was in hidden deep in a canyon on the Powder River. 

The route to the campground takes you past row after row of red sandstone bluffs, lined up like rusting battleships in port. In the early morning light, some look like ghost ships, or would could be mistaken for the last resting place of Noah’s Ark.

The drive will take you through working ranches, and you’ll see scores of wildlife, endless and amazing geological features, but few other campers. 

The no-fee campground is located on BLM land and has one vault toilet but no water and no trash collection. Camper are advised to pack out what you bring in. 

Fifty yards from the campground is the rim of Outlaw Canyon and the trailhead to Outlaw Cave. The hike down to the cave is a 1,000 foot descent! This hike is more technical than the average walk in the woods, but for the experienced hiker, the trek will take you about 20 minutes. It’s not hard to see why gangs chose this location for their hideouts. 

The reward for your effort will be a peaceful running river, and brown trout begging to take your bait. You did remember your pole?

Explore the caves along the other side of the riverbank, and take time to imagine yourself holed up there hiding from the law. Remember, you are standing in the shadows of the outlaws themselves. Butch, Sundance and the multitude could have plotted their next robbery right where you are standing!

Cody Stampede makes it to ProRodeo Hall of Fame

in News/Tourism
1851

Cody’s Stampede Rodeo, one of the premier events in professional rodeo, has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

The rodeo, now 100 years old, was named to the hall in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Aug. 3.

The induction proves how good the Stampede Rodeo is, said Mike Darby, co-president of the Stampede’s board of directors.

“We have a great, great rodeo,” he said. “We have the best contestants, the best stock, the best contractor. We’re deserving of it. Our town is behind us, our sponsors are behind us.”

One of the driving forces behind the creation of the Stampede Rodeo was Caroline Lockhart, who had a major hand in organizing the rodeo 100 years ago.

Lockhart was also the first woman to serve on the Stampede’s board. She was also the only woman to serve on the board until this year’s appointment of Jerri Gillett.

“We just work as a team,” Gillett said. “They don’t single me out like a trophy woman. They just treaty me as one of the guys.”

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