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Matt Radich: It would behoove all legislators to let science guide their actions or risk damaging one of the largest segments of our vibrant outdoor recreation economy.

It's no secret that Oregon plays host to countless outdoor recreation areas and opportunities. From numerous mountains and deserts to lakes, rivers, waterfalls and beaches, Oregon offers an untamed mix of natural beauty and recreational enjoyment. As president of Active Water Sports, headquartered in Oregon City, I see the joy that boating in the Newberg Pool brings to our community and tourists alike. The area offers boat launching, bird watching, waterskiing, salmon fishing, and a key stop on the Willamette River Water Trail. PMG FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - This year's Senate Bill 2555 sought to restrict towing-sports on the Newberg Pool portion of the Willamette River, likely pushing more boaters to Hagg Lake.

At times it seems the importance of outdoor recreation to our state's economy is not fully understood. Fortunately, that is changing.

In November, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis released its fourth-annual report on the state of our outdoor recreation economy. The numbers are eye-popping and represent an important economic driver in our state. According to the report, outdoor recreation in a challenging year for most industries accounted for an impressive $689 billion in economic output while supporting 4.3 million American jobs. Collectively, the outdoor recreation industry accounts for 3% of America's employment.

As a small business operator, I am encouraged to see that boating businesses like ours are the number-one contributor to the outdoor recreation economy. As an Oregonian, I am even more impressed by the strength of our state's outdoor recreation economy: 2.2% of GDP, $5.3 billion in economic impact, and nearly 70,000 jobs. Following suit of years' past, recreational boating and fishing continue to be a leading contributing sector to Oregon's outdoor recreation industry, contributing nearly $450 million in direct economic impact to our state.

With this great economic impact comes the responsibility to protect the public lands and waters essential to the long-term health of outdoor recreation businesses like mine. Oregon tow-boat dealers have worked together and made it our mission to help our customers have as much fun on the water as possible and at the same time provide high-quality educational support. We are dedicated to making sure these waterways maintain their natural ecosystems and beauty, and that the recreation we support is not causing any harm.

Active Water Sports is one of a handful of dealers in the area that sells recreational boats. We work together to educate new and experienced customers about safe and responsible waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing practices. These practices include staying 200-300 feet from shore and avoiding repetitive passes. Research shows that following these simple instructions does not impact our waterways, shorelines and structures. By teaching and encouraging these best practices, the boating community can hold itself accountable and prove our commitment to mitigating nuisance and eliminating impacts on the health of waterways.

As we look ahead to 2022, there will undoubtedly be another misguided attempt in the Legislature to restrict waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing in the Newberg Pool. It would behoove all legislators to let science guide their actions or risk damaging one of the largest segments of our vibrant outdoor recreation economy and all the businesses it supports. Through education, courtesy and accountability, communities across the state can replace the need for overregulation with a deeper understanding of waterway health and safety.

Portland-area native Matt Radich began his career in the watersports industry nearly three decades ago as a summer camp waterski instructor. Seeking to help families enjoy boating ever since, he now serves as president of Active Water Sports and as a board member of Oregon Families for Boating.


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