Maine poised to get OREC office

Outdoor recreation adds $8.2 billion in consumer spending to the state's economy.

Maine is getting closer to leveraging its billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy through an official state office.

Today, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in a news alert announced the welcoming of Carolann Ouellette as director of the “newly designated Office of Outdoor Recreation, where she will be responsible for helping grow the outdoor recreation economy.”

Ouellette previously served as executive director of Maine Huts & Trails, a non-profit operating a system of backcountry trails and eco-lodges in the state’s western mountains. Before that, she was the director of the Maine Office of Tourism, where her new position is housed.

She is out of the office this week, but DECD spokesman Doug Ray, said of Ouellette that, “She’s perfectly well equipped to start working on this. The hope is to show some value, and work that into the next budget cycle under the next administration.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s second term is up this year, and currently, the OREC position is temporary. But the synergy of outdoor-minded people, outdoor-focused businesses, and outdoor opportunities—from L.L.Bean to Old Town Canoe Company to Acadia National Park—is reassuring.

Additionally, Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation across the country generates $887 billion in consumer spending, sustaining 7.6 million American jobs. Of that, OIA says Maine’s outdoor recreation economy generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending, 76,000 jobs, $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and $548 million in state and local tax revenue.

Should Maine create the office sooner rather than later, the state could become the 12th with official offices or task forces in place promoting and growing outdoor recreation. The OREC movement gained momentum up this year, with Michigan establishing a council and eight state leaders signing off on shared political principles.

Map of states with outdoor rec offices
As of October 2018, these are the 11 states with official task forces or government offices promoting and growing outdoor recreation.Infographic by Kristin Hostetter and Jackie McCaffrey

California was next in line to become the 12th state, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation because he reportedly didn’t understand how the office differed from an existing office.

Could Maine be next in line instead?