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Photo credit: The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Nathan Reigner becomes Pennsylvania's first Director of Outdoor Recreation. Photo credit: The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pennsylvania hires Nathan Reigner as its first Director of Outdoor Recreation

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Reigner’s unique new job on Wednesday, as they hope an outdoor director will encourage…

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Pennsylvania, welcome Nathan Reigner as your new director of outdoor recreation, the first in the state.

Reigner’s primary focus with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will be to expand existing recreational grounds throughout the state, and promote mental and physical health benefits that come with outdoor activity. The commonwealth said they see Reigner’s unique opportunity as a way to create new career paths.

“I am proud to welcome Nathan to DCNR. Public lands are at the heart of outdoor recreation, making it critical that DCNR continues to focus on strategic growth and coordination to ensure the outdoors are welcoming and accessible to all,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

The move to bring Reigner to DCNR is part of the state’s 2020-2024 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which looks to improve the department’s five areas of health and wellness, recreation for all, sustainable systems, funding and economic development, and technology.

In order to meet the four-year goal, Reigner will be tasked with creating equitable access, recreational business development, and investments to the nation’s sixth largest recreation economy, a statement noted.

“This new position will have many goals, but simply said, my mission is to help Pennsylvania fully realize the benefits of outdoor recreation,” said Reigner. “It’s less about specific activities -- hiking, canoeing, biking -- than about people being motivated and connected to have certain experiences outdoors.”

A graduate from Gettysburg College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology, Reigner also received a master of science in Forestry from Virginia Tech, and completed his doctorate in Natural Resource Management at the University of Vermont.

Originally from PA himself, Reigner knows a thing or two about outdoor exploration.

Reigner grew up in Montgomery County playing in his backyard woods as a Boy Scout of Troop 108. There, he learned how to camp, hike, and developed survival skills.

Prior to DCNR, Reigner filled various roles in the U.S. and Iceland instructing recreational leadership on the importance of outdoor activity development. He spent six years in the parks studies lab at the University of Vermont, and most recently completed two years as a research assistant professor at Penn State.

Pennsylvania’s expansion of the DCNR follows a similar approach other states around the country have taken.

Reigner said since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have found escape in the great outdoors, and he expects that interest to continue to grow in the next few years.

“I look forward to putting all my experiences into helping bring the resources of DCNR and the commonwealth to these places and people to further grow our outdoor recreation sector and sustain our natural resources,” said Reigner.

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