N.H. Senate Considers New Position To Boost Outdoor Recreation

Feb 28, 2019

A surfer catches a wave at Bass Beach on the Rye-North Hampton town line. (File photo)
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outdoor recreation opportunities. But some recreation groups and business leaders say the state isn’t doing enough to boost the recreation industry. They’re supporting legislative efforts to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development.

The Senate’s Executive Departments and Administration Committee heard testimony on the bill, SB 234, last week.  Among those testifying in favor of the bill were Taylor Caswell, the commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs in which this new position would reside, and Rob Riley, the president of the Northern Forest Center.

Riley, whose organization works with communities in the Northern Forest that spans Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello about what the new position might mean for outdoor recreation in the state.

Here are the interview highlights, which have been edited for length and clarity:

On what the director of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development would do:

As far as we understand from the process of the of working with the New Hampshire BEA (Business and Economic Affairs), is really to focus their efforts and coordinate among other state departments and the private sector, and really mobilizing the private industry, advancing marketing of the state. But really looking at how recreation fits into the broader suite of economic development across the state.

On a project that the new director might be able to tackle:

For example, we're involved with a new initiative called The Borderlands. It's a network of mountain bike trail networks. Three of them happen to be in New Hampshire: Parker Mountain, for example. I can imagine the state supporting us and some of our broader marketing efforts to bring riders from the Boston area. If we find that they were encumbered by some legislative issues that we're not aware of, we can reach out to this individual and say, ‘How do we navigate the state system?’ We’d also look at how we aggregate different programs that are within the state, but are across different departments. Maybe even potentially on the federal level, we would ask this person to help us look at facilitating those resources, technical assistance, marketing, and alignment across the public and private sector.

On Colorado having a similar position in place:

I think one of the primary evidences of [Colorado’s] successful implementation is really when you think about Colorado you think about outdoor recreation as a basis for both their lifestyle and their economy. And that, in and of itself, is attracting businesses and people to participate in that landscape. If we can do that the same here, then we can start really addressing some of the socio-demographic issues that we’re challenged by.

On what a return on investment for this position would look like in a few years:

Again, it goes back to public-private partnership. I think that what we have 10 years down the line is a more aligned regulatory and use perspective. We also have better inter-state communication. But I also think that we have more substantive recreational built-out assets in the North Country. And I think it's also about this notion of how do we attract more people to rural places who want to take advantage of the recreational assets in that region. And I hope that we see some different trends in rural place as a result of that.