Ralph Heath: Explore the power of outdoor recreation

Ralph Heath: Explore the power of outdoor recreation

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Choosing to live and work in the greater La Crosse area is a personal decision that differs wildly for each of us. Many enjoy gazing lovingly at our magnificent bluffs and rivers, while others desire to experience the exhilaration and health benefits that come from playing in the great outdoors.

Groups of recreational enthusiasts gather as the sun rises to bike, ski, paddle, run or hike the trails, roads and rivers surrounding our area. Others do the same in the evening or during lunch hour. Hixon Forest and similar venues have become a mecca for outdoor recreation.

We return from recreational engagements invigorated and most often at our desks by 8 a.m. in a heightened state of intellectual curiosity, as the work we do continues to feed our love to be challenged and stimulated at work and play. Outdoor Recreation attracts high-quality knowledge workers; so essential to helping solve the high demand we have for a skilled labor force in our region.

We have benefited from the influx of outdoor recreational enthusiasts as they provide us with a highly skilled and motivated workforce. The Outdoor Recreation Alliance has been providing additional infrastructure to existing land and water trails—helping assure the region that we will continue to attract the best and the brightest, providing a high-performance workforce and fueling jobs, economic growth and tourism.

Outdoor recreation is an essential reason for our record low unemployment rates, attracting those who enjoy challenges at play and work. Studies reveal knowledge workers make informed decisions about where they choose to play and work based on the outdoor recreation available to them. The greater La Crosse area is the mother of outdoor recreational opportunities.

We are home to the best road cycling in the world. Bike lanes and “sharrows” have created a safe environment for families to plant roots in our communities. Minutes outside our urban areas, the milk industry’s desire to maintain secluded back roads for their milk trucks has provided cyclists with a rich selection of the best paved roads in the country. ORA, its army of volunteers and financial contributors, will continue to build shared-use trails for bikers and hikers. Studies show that access to biking and hiking trails increase home values similar to lakefront property.

ORA has been building and advocating for sustainable shared-use trails that engage our people in healthy physical activity and provide a much-needed means for transportation that can help ease our congestion challenges.

We invite you to learn more and become involved by joining us Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the third annual Outdoor Recreation Alliance Summit at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center. Our keynote speaker, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, will share how his community is attracting needed funding and outdoor enthusiasts to help ignite an economic boom in that region, similar to the economic boom ORA is helping lead here in the greater La Crosse area. Please visit our website at www.NaturesPlaceToPlay.com.

Ralph Heath is an Outdoor Recreation Alliance board member. He can be reached at Ralph@RalphHeath.com. He is writing his second book and riding his bike on the aforementioned back roads.

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