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​​Pennsylvania’s Director of Outdoor Recreation

Recognizing the importance of the economic and many other benefits of outdoor recreation to the Commonwealth, in 2022 Pennsylvania established the position of Director of Outdoor Recreation within the office of the DCNR Secretary.

The director’s mission is to expand and ensure the benefits of outdoor recreation for all Pennsylvanians as individuals, communities, and a Commonwealth.

The director serves as a liaison among industry, non-governmental organizations, user, and government partners to:

  • Communicate the significance of outdoor recreation
  • Address needs for systematic support and investment in outdoor recreation
  • Welcome all residents of and visitors to Pennsylvania to enjoy and benefit from the Commonwealth’s diverse and exceptional outdoor experiences.

Meet the Director

Nathan Reigner, Ph.D., is Pennsylvania’s first Director of Outdoor Recreation.

Charged with the mission to unite, grow, and strengthen Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, Nathan was instrumental in the establishment of Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation in 2023.

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Prior to beginning his service with the Commonwealth in 2021, Nathan was a member of Penn State’s research faculty and Principal of Recreation Tourism Science, an applied outdoor recreation consultancy.

Throughout his career, Nathan has focused on helping communities, parks, trails, and tourism destinations deliver outstanding experiences while protecting their essential character.

Reigner has worked in and with more than 100 national and state parks, forests, trails, historic sites, and heritage areas in more than half the states and territories in the union and overseas in Europe, Asia, the Arctic, and the Middle East.

A native of Pennsylvania, Reigner has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology from Gettysburg College, a Master of Science in Forestry from Virginia Tech, and a Doctorate in Natural Resource Management from the University of Vermont.

Contact Nathan Reigner through this online form.

Outdoor Recreation Economy in Pennsylvania

Outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver in Pennsylvania, one that:

  • Delivers direct economic benefits to rural communities;
  • Provides jobs that connect passion and profession;
  • Brings income into the state from visitors; and
  • Merges community quality of life with long-term sustainable returns.

Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (PDF), outdoor recreation adds $17 billion to the Pennsylvania economy.

​This activity creates 164,000 jobs which earn Pennsylvanians $8 billion in wages and salaries.

Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Resources

From the vastness of the Pennsylvania Wilds in northcentral Pennsylvania to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in the middle of Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians and visitors to the C​ommonwealth have access to outdoor recreation lands and waters that are internationally renowned and loved locally.

These lands and waters, the sweeping vistas and the starry skies above hold diverse and exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.

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Pennsylvanians Support Outdoor Recreation

Pennsylvania is a state of outdoor recreationists.

According to surveys done for the statewide outdoor recreation plan, residents participate in outdoor recreation, feel it is an essential part of their lives, and agree that there should be investments in outdoor recreation for individual health and happiness, the health and development of communities, and the growth and success of the Commonwealth.

In addition:

  • Ninety-three percent of Pennsylvanian’s participate in outdoor recreation, more than half at least once or twice a month.

  • Ninety percent agree that outdoor recreation is an essential part of their lives.

  • Sixty-five percent agree that parks, trails and open space are essential parts of the health care system.

  • Ninety-one percent of Pennsylvanians support increasing state funds to support outdoor recreation and recreation area conservation.

  • Seventy-nine percent of outdoor enthusiasts agree that trails should be high priority for infrastructure investment.

The goal of Pennsylvania’s statewide outdoor recreation plan is to ensure these spaces are welcoming and accessible to all.

Recreation Engagement Coalition

DCNR is facilitating a Recreation Engagement Coalition to outline priorities for the outdoor recreation sector in Pennsylvania.

Recreation Engagement Coalition members (PDF) will be primary advisers helping to build the Commonwealth’s Office of Outdoor Recreation.

The coalition includes members from across Pennsylvania with local, regional, and statewide influence and expertise in the outdoor recreation sector representing multiple disciplines.

The effort is a part of DCNR’s efforts for Growing Outdoor Recreation for Pennsylvania looking to grow and empower Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy to better serve the Commonwealth’s residents, visitors, and communities.​

Growing Outdoor Recreation Road​map

Work on the strategic priorities of building capacity within Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation industry, building community and economic development capacity, and building the capacity for inclusive and equitable wellbeing for Pennsylvania will move forward as outlined in the Growing Outdoor Recreation for Pennsylvania Conclusions Report and Roadmap for the Future (PDF) report.​​