Pennsylvania Legacies #164: Taking Recreation Seriously

In Pennsylvania, fun is serious business. Amid growing recognition of outdoor recreation as a vital sector of the state’s economy — not to mention an indispensable public good — the state agency tasked with managing Pennsylvania’s natural resources is making a bold investment in the outdoor industry, while reaffirming its commitment to ensuring equitable access for all Pennsylvanians. On this episode, we’re getting to know Pennsylvania’s first-ever statewide recreation czar, Nathan Reigner, and his vision for the newly-established Office of Outdoor Recreation within DCNR.


Nathan Reigner, DCNR Director of Outdoor Recreation

Every state has a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources like Pennsylvania’s, or something equivalent. For most of them, the mission involves management of state-owned natural resources for commercial uses, including tourism and recreation. And for many such agencies, that means promoting and actively creating new opportunities for people to recreate outdoors. But few states have taken the idea as far as Pennsylvania has.

The Commonwealth already enjoys a national reputation for the consistently high quality of its Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, or SCORP. Under Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, DCNR has set ambitious goals for making outdoor experiences readily accessible to all Pennsylvanians, particularly those who’ve been underserved in the past. This year, the agency has doubled down on its commitments by implementing a key recommendation from the latest SCORP: creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation, and hiring Pennsylvania’s first full-time Director of Outdoor Recreation, Nathan Reigner. 

Reigner comes to DCNR from Penn State, where he was on the faculty of the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management Department. His background combines social science, forestry and natural resource management, with lots of firsthand experience biking, hiking, hunting, skiing, and otherwise enjoying Pennsylvania’s outdoor treasures.

Outdoor recreation is a public good… everyone has a right to participate in outdoor recreation.

“I come to this job with a mission. I believe that outdoor recreation experiences are powerful and meaningful for people. I believe they help us shape our understanding of the environment and help us understand our place in the world. I believe the more people have these experiences, the better we are as individuals and as a society,” said Reigner. 

“The creation of this position really is a recognition that outdoor recreation is a significant sector in Pennsylvania.”

Reigner says he will take a holistic approach, engaging stakeholders like businesses, government, industry, NGOs and municipalities in conversations around outdoor recreation. He will also work to increase access to outdoor recreation throughout the state, a priority of the current SCORP.

“Outdoor recreation is a public good… everyone has a right to participate in outdoor recreation,” said Reigner. “We need to acknowledge that outdoor recreation spaces and outdoor recreation participation is not representative of our Pennsylvania population… we need to work hard to make sure that everyone has equitable access and feels included.”