Opinion: New Office of Outdoor Recreation Is an Investment in Jobs, Health and More

Outdoor Recreation
Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (left) visits Rocks State Park in Jarrettsville in January 2021. Photo from Maryland GovPics on Flickr.

By Jessica Turner and Joel Dunn 

The writers are, respectively, the executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the nation’s leading outdoor recreation coalition; and president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, who was an active member of the Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission.

Maryland has taken a big step forward by joining 17 other states across the country and investing in a huge driver of the state’s economy — outdoor recreation.

The creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, announced last month, will support and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities and the economic benefits they produce.

As the head of the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations and the head of an entrepreneurial nonprofit conservation organization, we applaud Gov. Larry Hogan and his administration’s work to establish the Office of Outdoor Recreation.

Maryland residents, businesses and visitors treasure the state’s recreation opportunities, including trails, parks, rivers and, of course, the Chesapeake Bay. Outdoor recreation is also a significant part of the state’s economy, contributing more than $7 billion to the state and accounting for 89,000 jobs.

With all types of recreation, everything from skiing to horseback riding, hunting and fishing, to boating and surfing, this new office will ensure that outdoor recreation will continue to grow and thrive through investments in quality access and infrastructure so that future generations will be able to experience these treasured places for years to come.

The announcement follows a multi-year effort led by the Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission, established in 2017 to strengthen the outdoor recreation industry in Maryland and boost investments in recreation assets like parks, trails and waterways. The new Office of Outdoor Recreation provides Maryland with a dedicated office to work with outdoor recreation stakeholders, including outfitters, businesses and recreation enthusiasts, and to coordinate across the Department of Commerce, DNR and other agencies for the benefit of increasing jobs, tourism, businesses and quality of life.

The office will be led by Executive Director J. Daryl Anthony, whose decades of experience with DNR, first as a park ranger and ultimately as assistant secretary for land resources, makes him an outstanding pick to lead outdoor recreation efforts for Maryland.

This new office proves that outdoor recreation – whether fishing on the Chesapeake, climbing in Harpers Ferry, camping in Patapsco or off-road vehicle riding at Wolf Den Run – is not just a nice-to-have, but is an essential part of Marylanders’ health and economy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen more people than ever flock to the outdoors for exercise, Vitamin D, a safe place to spend time with family and friends, and for reprieve from a trying year.

For this reason, and so many more, we stand ready to partner with Executive Director Anthony and his office to elevate our shared outdoor heritage and bring Maryland’s special places to more people over the coming years.