Outdoor rec industry stakeholder meetings held in PA Wilds with focus on sustaining, growing economy

As part of a series of statewide stakeholder meetings on efforts to unite, grow, and strengthen Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, the Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation, Nathan Reigner, visited Warren and Williamsport in the PA Wilds.

It’s part of the Growing Outdoor Recreation for Pennsylvania coalition, or GORP, cleverly also the acronym that most avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts use for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.

The outdoor recreation sector adds nearly $14 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy and also supports 152,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. Nationally, outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output, accounting for approximately 3 percent of all jobs in America. Pennsylvania has the 6th largest outdoor rec economy in the United States.

“PA is a heavyweight when it comes to outdoor rec in the US, and we need to start acting like a heavyweight,” said Director Reigner at the stakeholder meeting at the Conewago Club in Warren on April 11. “It is critical that we support the growth of the outdoor recreation sector to help improve health and wellness, conservation efforts, job creation, and so much more.”

The stakeholder meeting in Warren featured panelists in outdoor recreation industries and organizations: Rich Hatfield, Allegheny National Forest; Andy Georgakis, Warren Bike Shop; Ta Enos, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship; Piper Van Ord, Allegheny Outfitters; and Nicole Carrier, Creek Bottom Canvas. (Shown left to right in the photo to the right.)

Jim Decker, president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, also spoke during the meeting, highlighting the partnership and teamwork between national, state and local entities to build more than 35 miles of networked mountain bike trails at Jakes Rocks in the Allegheny National Forest.

After the stakeholder meeting in Warren, participants were invited to tour Allegheny Outfitters and The Goat Fort Indoor Climbing. Allegheny Outfitters offers high quality backpacking, paddling, hiking and climbing gear. They also offer canoe and kayak rentals for both day use and overnight trips, as well as shuttling travelers before or after their journeys. The Goat Fort is an indoor rock climbing gym that specializes in bouldering. This new, first-class indoor climbing gym in downtown Warren has expanded the business’s reach and supports a larger climbing community.

Another stakeholder meeting was held the next day, April 12, at Lycoming College in Williamsport. That meeting’s panelists were Kim Wheeler, SEDA-COG; Orlando Rodriguez, Rich Port Adventure Company; Abbi Peters, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship; and Dave Hertwig, New Trail Brewing Co. (Shown left to right in the photo to the right.)

Jason Fink, President/CEO of Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce welcomed attendees to Lycoming County and set the stage for the program.

After the stakeholder meeting in Williamsport, guests were invited to visit Rich Port Adventure Company in Muncy. The company offers kayak, stand-up paddle board, canoe, river tube, bike and e-bike rentals in Lycoming County, as well as delivery and shuttle services. It also operates a food truck.

“Businesses like these connect people to opportunities to recreate outside and build outdoor recreation into our daily lives,” Reigner said. “We are hopeful that we can harness the community that is built through running, biking and other outdoor recreation activities to broaden the benefits and impact of this important piece of our economy.”

To assist with the mission of growing the outdoor recreation economy, DCNR and other state agencies are developing an Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would be responsible for coordinating and synergizing among entities within and connected to state government to help align and support strategic initiatives, partnerships, policies, resources, and more. These statewide stakeholder meetings helped explain the mission while also hearing feedback about how to accomplish that mission effectively.

The agencies also have created the Recreation Engagement Coalition (REC), which includes members from across Pennsylvania with local, regional and statewide influence and expertise in the outdoor recreation sector representing multiple disciplines.

Visit DCNR’s website for more information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to grow the outdoor recreation economy, and check out the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship’s blog post about being a part of the GORP coalition.

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