State officials gathered in western Pennsylvania on Thursday to celebrate the launch of Pennsylvania’s first-ever Office of Outdoor Recreation.
The office will coordinate efforts across state agencies such as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the departments of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Health, and Transportation (PennDOT), to create a “cohesive strategy for the growth and expansion of the outdoor sector,” state officials said from Yough River Park in Connellsville, Pa. on Thursday.
With 124 state parks — three of which are still in the process of opening after being announced in July 2022 — and 2.2 million acres of state forest, Pennsylvania has the sixth-largest outdoor recreation economy in the nation, contributing more than $13.6 billion to the commonwealth’s economy, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data.
“People and organizations across the Commonwealth see the need for statewide coordination to connect communities to meaningful and competitive growth opportunities,” Pennsylvania’s first-ever Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner said.
State officials said that a 50-member advisory group has helped craft recommendations for the office, highlighting areas where the outdoor recreation economy could use its support.
“We have gathered a significant amount of input and will continue to engage with stakeholders and communities to build up the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country, while maintaining the fun and adventure the outdoors provides,” Reigner said.
In 2020, outdoor recreation contributed more than $32 billion to Pennsylvania’s GDP, generating more than $6.5 billion in tax revenue at the local, state and federal level, according to a study conducted by Southwick Associates for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a national hunting, fishing, and conservation nonprofit.
Study: Outdoor recreation spending in Pa. sees a boost in 2020 | The Numbers Racket
“Our state parks and outdoor recreation industry are key to Pennsylvania’s economy — hosting nearly 40 million visitors each year and boosting local businesses and the local economy in and around our parks,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said on Thursday.