OFF THE MAP: The Great Outdoors

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There was a time when summer meant roasting s'mores over the campfire and rowing your boat ashore. But lately, Americans seem to have lost their kum-ba-yah for age-old outdoor recreation. In fact, over the past few years, participation in camping and hiking the quintessential outdoor activities has either stagnated or declined. According to Hartsdale, N.Y.-based American Sports Data, Inc., the number of individuals age 6 and older who went tent camping declined to 40.3 million in 2002, from 42.7 million in 1998. The number of hikers also eroded in 2002, to 37.9 million, down from 40.1 million in 1998. Other segments of the outdoors industry fared even worse: Over the past four years, the number of rafters and canoeists declined by 20 percent and the number of horseback riders by 11 percent. Granted, as certain sports lose their foothold, others sprint ahead. Since 1987, the number of mountain bikers has more than tripled, and since 1998, the number of kayakers has risen by nearly 60 percent. Of course, summer is about more than hiking and biking. There's also swimming and fishing and baseball and golf and well, what are you waiting for? Get out there!

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