The Rockford and Comstock Park communities accumulated more than $7 million during the 2015 summer season, thanks to visitors to the Rogue River watershed area, according to a study by Grand Valley State University faculty and Trout Unlimited.

Erik Nordman, associate professor of biology, and Paul Isley, professor of economics and associate dean in the Seidman College of Business, conducted the research through Trout Unlimited's Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative.

Data for the study was gathered during the four-month summer of 2015 season through the use of on-site surveys at multiple locations in the Rogue River watershed. Locations included The Rogue Golf Club, Grand-Rogue River Access Site and Campground, Rockford Dam and canoe launch, and White Pine Trail trailheads in Comstock Park, Belmont, Rockford and Cedar Springs. Participation in events such as Praise in the Park, Art in the Park, and the Rockford Farmers Market was also measured.

The analysis of the surveys focused on visitors who live outside of the watershed and were mainly visiting the area because of the Rogue River.

While about 20 percent of participants reported living in Rockford, most of the visitors were from Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Allegan and Ionia counties, as well as Lansing and Ann Arbor, and as far away as Iowa.

"Visitors know that the Rogue River area is a great place for fishing, boating, and running and biking along the White Pine Trail," Nordman said. "Maintaining or improving the river's quality and improving recreational access can increase economic development, including jobs."

More than 64 full-time jobs were supported because of additional earnings of more than $1.7 million during the four-month summer season of 2015.

The study shows that during that time, total direct spending, including both day users and overnight users, was more than $4.1 million. The total economic activity, which includes direct spending, was more than $7.3 million.

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