MADISON, WI (SPECTRUM NEWS) — In a summer dominated by Coronavirus restrictions, Wisconsin is seeing a boom in one entertainment and tourism category: Outdoor recreation.

“All of us need to kind of find a place where we can put it all back together, and the outdoors has long been that for so many people and Wisconsin has a lot of good options for that,” said Sara Meaney, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Designee.

Outdoor activities from camping to boating have seen increases this year as people turn to nature for entertainment as indoor activities and ones featuring large crowds remain shuttered.
“Right now, especially with COVID and everything going on, there's not a lot to do as far as indoor places, we normally like to go to shows or things like that, can't do that so this is a good way to social distance, but still enjoy everything,” said Skye Bullin, a frequent camper who spent the weekend camping at Blue Mound State Park.

Bullin said she's noticed State Parks being busier than usual. On Saturday Bullin visited Devil's Lake State Park and she said she's never seen it so busy.

“People are still adhering to social distancing, doing a pretty good job, but it's definitely a lot more crowded than normal,” Bullin said.

The Department of Natural Resources reports 86,480 campsite reservations from June 10 to July 31 compared to 64,963 in the same span from 2019 — a roughly 33 percent rise.

The DNR also reports fish license sales this season are at 1,464,489 through July 29, compared to 1,285,115 in the same time period in 2019 — a roughly 14 percent increase.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism said that weekend visits to State Parks in May jumped 18 precent compared to the previous five years.

The Department of Tourism also said biking is increasing, with sales increasing in every category including a 66 percent increase in commuter and fitness bikes, a 59 percent increase in children's bikes, and a 121 percent increase in leisure bikes. Independent bike shops also had a 20 percent increase in repair orders.

The Marine Retailers Association of America says that 70 percent of new boat retailers have seen increased sales and 74 percent of used boat retailers reported an increase in sales in May.

Golf rounds have also increased in Wisconsin year to date, while they have fallen nationwide. In May, golf rounds were up 17.1 percent over the previous year according to the Department of Tourism, in the same month nationwide that jump was just 6.2 percent.

“We've seen upticks in so many different categories of outdoor recreation, it really does tell the story that Wisconsinites truly have that in their blood, it's a way of life for so many of us,” Meaney said.

Meaney said this helps from an economic standpoint. Wisconsin outdoor rec manufacturers see better years because of it, local retailers and shops get boosts, and people often spend in local communities close to where they take day and weekend trips.

People like Bullin, welcome the company outside.

“Get outside if you can, enjoy the weather, try not to be cooped up in the house, and just stay safe,” Bullin said.