Office of Outdoor Recreation proposal clears first committee

Assembly Bill 1111, which would create equitable access of the outdoors, advances to Appropriations Committee.

SACRAMENTO—Jerry Brown is no longer California’s governor, so he won’t be around to veto the latest iteration of bill proposing to establish a statewide office for outdoor recreational activities. Assembly Bill 1111, which is making its way through committee right now, was approved at its first stop on March 26.

AB 1111 was introduced by Assembly member Laura Friedman and proposed to establish the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would be a new operation within California’s government. Brown rejected a similar proposal in one of his last acts as governor in 2018.

Friedman’s proposal now moves forward to the Assembly Appropriations Committee; her proposal earned support from the Recreational Boaters of California, or RBOC.

“RBOC supports the goal of promoting sustainable outdoor recreation as well as economic development and job growth within the outdoor recreation economy provided the new entity does not tap into boater funds utilized for other important programs and services,” the nonprofit organization said in a released position statement.

The Office of Outdoor Recreation, if created, would foster several goals, such as working toward equitable access of the outdoors and recommending policies or initiatives to enhance inclusive access of recreational amenities.

Staff of a new Office of Outdoor Recreation, if created, would also be directed to promote and grow outdoor recreation by working together with economic development organizations, government agencies and tourism entities, according to an analysis of AB 1111 by RBOC staff.

The new office, according to RBOC, would also be required to “coordinate outdoor recreation policies across state and local government” and “foster communication between various government agencies, and companies, businesses, and others providing outdoor recreation products and services.”

AB 1111 also proposed the Office of Outdoor Recreation, through partnerships, to identify the effects of climate change on California’s recreational resources.

RBOC, in a released statement of AB 1111, said it would only be concerned with the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation of it redirected economic resources away from other programs dedicated to recreational boaters.

“In its present form the bill does not propose a redirection of existing funds paid by recreational boaters,” RBOC staff said in its statement about AB 1111. “The bill would authorize the office to receive assistance and funds from public and private sources, and would require that the moneys received by the office pursuant to this provision or appropriated by the legislature for purposes of the bill be deposited in the California Outdoor Recreation Account, which the bill would create.

“The author stated in committee that she envisioned [the Office of Outdoor Recreation] having a very small number of employees,” the RBOC statement continued.

Whether the bill would earn support by both houses of the legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature remains to be seen, but a similar proposal last year fell just short of crossing the goal line.

Assembly Bill 1918, which would have established the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, was approved in the Assembly and State Senate but was vetoed by Brown in September 2018.

Brown, in his veto statement, said the creation of an Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, while noble, would create an added layer of unnecessary bureaucracy.

The Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, had it survived Brown’s veto last year, would have been called upon, according to The Log’s coverage of last year’s veto, to support California’s outdoor recreational economy and recommend policies to “enhance recreational activities and experiences.”

Office staff would have also been directed to collect data and determine how California’s economy is directly affected by outdoor recreational activities. The office also would have been the primary point of contact for outdoors enthusiasts and industry members.

A legislative analysis of AB 1918 stated California is home to the country’s largest outdoor recreation economy. Outdoor recreational activities here reportedly generate more than $85 million in consumer spending and create 730,000-plus direct jobs.

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