On Thursday, Governor Doug Burgum, accompanied by state agency officials and partner organizations, announced the establishment of the North Dakota Office of Outdoor Recreation.

The aim of this initiative is to bolster North Dakota’s outdoor recreation economy by fostering stronger partnerships with the private sector and enhancing collaboration among all stakeholders to capitalize on the state’s vast natural and economic potential.

North Dakota is now among 21 other states that have recognized the increasing significance of outdoor recreation by creating a dedicated office for it. The establishment of this office, via executive order, will utilize existing resources and personnel to kickstart its operations.

Governor Burgum emphasized the importance of this move, stating, “This new office will allow us to better coordinate with stakeholders and state agencies as they develop plans, strategies, and initiatives to maximize the impact of outdoor recreation in North Dakota.” He highlighted the pivotal role of the private sector in driving economic development and job creation in the state, citing various outdoor activities such as boating, hunting, and fishing as crucial contributors to North Dakota’s economic well-being.

The announcement took place during a press conference held at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, a symbolic location where the convergence of the Missouri River, historical landmarks, and extensive trail systems creates an ideal environment for outdoor recreation.

Key speakers at the event included representatives from the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, which will serve as the administrative home for the new office, as well as stakeholders from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, North Dakota Department of Commerce, and various private organizations involved in outdoor recreation.

With outdoor activities contributing over $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy, North Dakota stands to benefit significantly from its $1.3 billion annual economic boost from outdoor recreation. The establishment of the Office of Outdoor Recreation is poised to further develop this sector within the state.

Cody Schulz, director of North Dakota Parks and Recreation, expressed enthusiasm for the strategic connections that the office will facilitate among stakeholders, noting its potential to drive both the economic and health benefits of outdoor recreation.

By uniting stakeholders, the Office of Outdoor Recreation aims to promote economic growth, enhance quality of life, and preserve the state's unique outdoor heritage. The combined efforts are expected to attract critical investment and foster innovation within North Dakota’s outdoor recreation industry.

Jessica Wahl Turner, President of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, commended Governor Burgum’s leadership in establishing the 22nd Office of Outdoor Recreation in the United States, emphasizing its potential to support North Dakota’s outdoor recreation economy and create jobs for its residents.

Governor Burgum also highlighted the role of outdoor recreation opportunities as a workforce recruitment and retention tool, particularly in a post-pandemic environment where workers have more flexibility in choosing their place of residence.

In addition to the establishment of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, North Dakota Parks and Recreation announced three significant initiatives:

  1. The awarding of $1.2 million to four applicants across the state for the construction and rehabilitation of trails through the Recreation Trails Program Grant.
  2. The expansion of the Roughrider Trail, a multi-use motorized trail south of Mandan, from 16 miles to 20 miles, connecting Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park to various wildlife management areas and recreational facilities.
  3. The launch of the OuterSpatial mobile app, which directs users to special events and points of interest within North Dakota’s state parks and trails, offers hiking challenges and an interactive social platform to enhance outdoor recreation experiences.

These initiatives bolster North Dakota’s commitment to fostering a thriving outdoor recreation department and leveraging its natural assets to drive economic growth and enhance the well-being of its residents.

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