When the State of Oregon needed to increase revenue for outdoor recreation facilities and maintenance, they turned to Oregon State University for answers to their questions, and for scientific data to help inform their decisions.
A study completed by Randy Rosenberger, professor and College of Forestry Associate Dean for Student Success, connected outdoor activities on trails to health savings by utilizing and recalibrating a tool called the Outdoor Recreation Health Impacts Estimator. The tool was originally developed to focus on transportation decisions (walking, cycling or utilizing public transportation as opposed to driving) to estimate changes in life expectancy and quality of life.
The tool converts positive health effects into monetary unit, and even includes the cost of treating certain diseases as well as the loss of productivity illnesses cause.
The study became part of the 2019-2023 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
“In my research, I quantify things that aren’t normally quantified,” Rosenberger says. “Things like recreation aren’t traded in markets with prices. They don’t have voices. This study gives them a voice, and I think through it, people are starting to realize that recreation is at the nexus of everything. It’s not just something we like to do if we have the time. It’s creating healthier communities and saving those same communities money on health services.”
Rosenberger replicated the study for the McDonald and Dunn Forests, two of the College Research Forests. The college owns more than 15,000 acres of working forests around the state that are utilized for research, outreach and education with some open to the public for recreation. He found that recreation on the Research Forests saved $754,395 in cost of illness savings in 2017 alone. This data can now be used by private and public agencies for planning, budgeting, assessment and grant applications.
By The Numbers
In 2017, the McDonald-Dunn College Research Forests saw 17,271 individual recreation visitors who accounted for more than 155,000 total visits.
McDonald-Dunn Recreation Activity
Recreation visits to the McDonald and Dunn Forests resulted in $754,395 in cost of illness savings, or health benefits, associated with eight chronic illnesses; and accounted for 14 percent of the total health benefits estimated for all of Benton County ($5.4 million).
Did You Know?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorousintensity aerobic physical activity.
60 percent of adults in Oregon meet this recommendation. 63 percent of adults in Benton County meet this.
A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about College of Forestry research facilities and collaborations.