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2022 Legislative Session: Historic Outdoor Recreation Planning and Investment

Kaitlyn ClarkeNews

Utah’s 2022 legislative general session ended on March 4. It included millions of dollars in funding for one-time and ongoing outdoor recreation projects and legislation that improves how Utah plans, preserves, and prioritizes the outdoors and outdoor recreation.

Utah is at the forefront of investing in outdoor recreation and communities, and using outdoor recreation to invest in quality of life and help communities with economic development. 

“With the increase in population and visitors exploring our beautiful state in record numbers, we must continue to invest in things that directly impact our quality of life,” Brian Steed, executive director for the Department of Natural Resources said. “Funding and legislative priorities from the 2022 general session show Utah continues to be the national leader in state initiatives and investment in outdoor recreation.”

In addition to funding, the legislature passed bills prioritizing the long-term and sustainable administration of outdoor recreation.

“The Division of Outdoor Recreation would like to thank the legislature for its forward-thinking investments,” said Pitt Grewe, director of the new Division of Recreation. “Thanks to Speaker Wilson for continuously prioritizing the future of Utah’s outdoors and Utahns’ quality of life, Rep. Ferry for open dialogue on merging offices and creating government efficiencies while providing necessary funding for the outdoors, and Rep. Snider for beginning this process last session, continuing to champion it this session, and for focusing funding for Utah’s outdoor recreation assets.”

Long-Term Investments

There’s a rich history of stewardship and connection to the land in Utah. Utah prioritizes investments and planning for smart growth, supporting residents and tourists, and protecting the land we all cherish.

H.B. 409 (1st Substitute: Recreation Infrastructure Amendments by Rep. Casey Snider) provides a consistent source of recreation funding through a percentage of the sales and use tax that will go into the new Outdoor Adventure Infrastructure Restricted Account. As part of this bill, the Legislature appropriated more than $36 million to statewide outdoor recreation infrastructure, State Parks infrastructure and access, paved pedestrian or paved nonmotorized transportation paths, and outdoor access and vertical trails.

H.B. 125 (State Transient Room Tax Modifications by Rep. Carl Albrecht) eliminates the scheduled repeal of the Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Grant Program, which means this source of grant funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure will continue in perpetuity. This grant funding is the only one of its kind in the nation. Utah has invested nearly $24 million in outdoor recreation infrastructure through this grant fund since 2015.

Division of Outdoor Recreation

H.B. 305 (3rd Substitute: Natural Resources Revisions by Rep. Joel Ferry) merged the Division of Recreation and the Office of Outdoor Recreation into one entity – the Division of Outdoor Recreation – which will exist in the Department of Natural Resources.

The Division of Outdoor Recreation is committed to ensuring every Utahn can live a healthy and active lifestyle through outdoor recreation and access to natural space. The focus of the division will be:

  • Recreational access on public lands
  • Represent the state’s interests in recreation at a local, regional, and federal level
  • Enhanced quality of life through outdoor recreation infrastructure in our communities
  • Economic growth and opportunity to our rural communities through outdoor recreation
  • Support outdoor recreation and public land workforce training and opportunities
  • Education, safety and stewardship of all our recreational users; residents and visitors
  • Support sustainable visitation of our public lands
  • Increased health and wellness among Utahns through recreation and open spaces
  • Inclusivity — ensure everyone can get outside safely and have the chance to connect with the area
  • Engage with educators to support environmental and outdoor learning opportunities
  • Provide pathways for children to spend more time outside learning about responsible recreation, stewardship, and conservation

Outdoor Adventure Commission

The Outdoor Adventure Commission was created during the 2020 legislative session with the primary goal to develop a strategic plan to meet the future needs of outdoor recreation within Utah. The plan will include:

  • Enhancing Utahns’ quality of life
  • Preserving the state’s natural beauty as more people get outdoors
  • Identifying opportunities for sustainable revenue sources to provide for maintenance and future needs

Since its creation, the commission:

  • Has heard and given presentations about regional projects, including the High Desert Trail, Wasatch Loop, Summit Scenic Byway Corridor, and Davis County Trail System
  • Has procured and hired the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University (IORT) to conduct the state’s first outdoor recreation strategic plan
  • Is working to determine data points for IORT to measure and include in the strategic plan

Please click here to see a summary of additional outdoor recreation-related bills from the 2022 legislative session.

Additional Funding:

Bear Lake State Park Marina Expansiondetails

$60,000,000 (one-time) and $500,000 (ongoing)

Bridal Veil Falls Surrounding Trail Development and Improvement details

$400,000 (one-time)

Central Wasatch Mountains Project  – details

$200,000 (one-time)

Deer Creek State Park Improvements Matchdetails 

$12,000,000 (one-time)

DNR Digital Park Entry Hardwaredetails

$600,000 (one-time)

Elevating Utah’s Support of Winter Sport details

$22,000,000 (one-time)

Great Salt Lake & Utah Lake Waterbird Studiesdetails

$875,000 (one-time)

High Desert Trail [Washington, Iron, Beaver, Millard, Juab, Tooele, and Box Elder Counties] – details

$1,000,000 (one-time)

Jordan River Improvement Amendments (HB0319)details

$22,700 (one-time)

Natural Resources Revisions (HB0305)details

$400,000 (ongoing)

North Lake Powell Accord Planning Request details

$100,000 (one-time)

Off-road Vehicle Safety Education (HB0180) details

$506,000 (one-time)

Recreation Infrastructure Amendments (HB409)details

$36,200,000 (one-time)

Run Elite Programdetails

$166,400 (ongoing)

Search and Rescue Funding Amendments Savings – 2020 GS S.B. 152 details

$-20,000 (one-time)

Sports and Olympic Event Fundingdetails

$2,000,000 (one-time) and $1,000,000 (ongoing)

Utah Lake Preservationdetails

$30,000,000 (one-time)

Veteran Access to State Parks (HB0155)details

$315,000 (ongoing)

Youth Bicycle Education Program details

$75,000 (one-time) and $25,000 (ongoing)