By Bill Cooper
The outdoor economy is not having the pandemic problems that are plaguing other industries. Airlines, car rentals, hotels and restaurants are hurting, while outdoor businesses such as campgrounds, canoe rentals, marinas, motor homes sales, campers , boats, UTVs, firearms, and even paddle board sales are booming.
Cowtown USA, Inc. in Cuba reported record sales in April of UTVs, boats and trailers. Their inventory became low, however, because many factories shut down due to COVID-19. On the other hand, factories are beginning to re-open and inventory will soon return to some semblance of normal, according to Doug Davis, sales manager at Cowtown.
There’s been a lot hype about the boom in gun and ammunition sales. It is still going on with no indicators of a slowdown anytime soon. One boutique ammo maker filled his second order in one week recently for 250,00 bullets. That’s a lot of bullets for one small business.
And if you are checking prices of online sales for personal-defense guns, it’s definitely a seller’s market. Area gun aficionado Jim DiPardo regularly attends gun auctions. According to him, there are not a lot of bargains at gun auctions right now. “Expect to pay what they are worth,” he said.
It’s become apparent, with all the first time gun buyers, that any notions that local governments have about gun control have pretty much gone into the toilet. Increased demands for gun control, increasing riots and lawlessness have been voted on by American citizens at the gun stores. The silent majority of American citizens have spoken.
Although Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in all 50 states, sporting events, conventions, summer camps and travel vacations have been scrapped for the year. A lot of people have a lot of time on their hands, and they are spending much of it in the outdoors. To do so, they need lots of outdoor gear, and the markets are showing it.
Google alone has reported that searches for paddle boards, life vests, kayaks and wakeboards have increased by over 70 percent. The National Marine Manufacturers Association reported that personal watercraft sales are up 75 percent compared to May of last year. Boat manufacturing and shipments are up from 16 to 160 percent from April, when the industry was pretty much shut down.
A couple of factors are responsible for driving people towards vehicle based recreation: lowered insurance costs and the cheapest fuel in two decades. That is great news for owners of boats, RVs and vehicles that pull recreational gear, such as campers.
Inventories of campers, popups and recreational vehicles have declined sharply as well as people flock to the outdoors.
Professional businessmen, such as doctors and others whose jobs require a lot of travel, have abandoned airlines in favor of travel trailers and RVs. And is all for safety’s sake.
With the upturn in outdoor equipment sales, tourists and families have elected to enjoy the outdoor benefits of closer to home venues. While a family may have planned to spend thousands on as standard two or three week traveling vacation, they can now make several mini-trips for the same costs, or less.
Missouri’s lakes, streams, and campgrounds have seen heavy usage in recent weeks. I checked about camping reservations for Montauk State Park recently. They were booked until mid-October, and all reservations are now required to be online, with no first come first served sites available. The same is true of most of the other state parks.
My grandchildren and I have camped a lot this summer. We turned our attention to my personal property, friends places and rustic campgrounds offered by both the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Forest service. They generally offer fewer amenities but are certainly sufficient for campers who want to get x 2 or 3 days of outdoor fun under their belts.
The U. S. Forest service maintains well managed campgrounds, and also offers the opportunity to camp anywhere off the road, except in wilderness areas and restricted areas. It is a great adventure to travel USFS maintained gravel roads and explore. It’s quite easy to find cleared areas where deer hunter camps spring up overnight during the season. These camps are often located in very scenic areas. Campers are then free to walk, hike, backpack, mountain bike, and explore area features like creeks, caves and bluffs. Often fabulous fishing, squirrel hunting, and nature photography opportunities are close at hand.
Regardless of what your situation has become with the pandemic, in the Missouri Ozarks there is a wide variety of outdoor opportunities which you may enjoy. We have numerous rivers within an hour’s drive, two trout parks, Lake of the Ozarks, dozens of MDC areas, state parks, USFS and National Park areas, private canoe rentals and many dozens of private campgrounds and properties to enjoy.
Don’t let the pandemic ruin the summer for your family. Consider a Staycation.