Recreation is a $705 million industry in Whatcom County according to a study commissioned by Recreation Northwest, a Bellingham nonprofit that promotes outdoor recreation.
The study won’t be released until next month, but that preliminary figure is the value of all recreational spending in Whatcom County annually. Todd Elsworth, executive director of Recreation Northwest, announced the number at the group’s second annual Recreation Northwest Expo at Best Western Lakeway Inn on March 12.
The expo grew from about 40 exhibitors last year to more than 65 this year, including several from outside Whatcom County.
“We’re starting to have a more regional reach,” Elsworth said. “This is a sampling of the opportunity for the growth of the recreation community. My goal is to brand Bellingham and Whatcom County as the recreation capital of the Northwest.”
Exhibitors at the expo ranged from outdoor equipment and gear brands, event coordinators, and outdoor publications.
Jonathan Baker, owner of EQPD Gear, brought bags, wallets, and multi-sport kneepads from his company’s home base in Twisp, Washington. He makes his gear by hand with five employees in a 750-square-foot facility. He wanted a table at the expo because of Bellingham’s recreation-oriented culture, he said.
“There’s a bunch of people here who are into recreation and are very conscious of what they buy,” Baker said. “Your culture is our culture.”
Event speakers were Krissy Moehl, a long-distance runner from Bow, Washington, who races all over the world and directs the Chuckanut 50K race, and Pulitzer Prize winner William Dietrich and North Cascade Institute communications coordinator Christian Martin. Dietrich and Martin are authors of “The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby,” which was published by Mountaineers Books in 2014.