State Offices of Outdoor Recreation

At The 2015 SHIFT Festival, in Jackson, WY, principals behind state outdoor recreation leadership positions from the country’s first three states to have them—Brad Petersen and Luis Benitez, directors of the Offices of Outdoor Recreation for Utah and Colorado, respectively, and Jon Snyder, Washington State’s Recreation Policy Advisor—convened in a panel format to discuss their respective positions and their efforts to advance outdoor recreation and conservation-related initiatives in their states.

The 2016 SHIFT Festival followed up on this work with what would become the first annual State Offices of Outdoor Recreation Workshop. Facilitated by the Outdoor Industry Association’s Local Recreation Advocacy Manager Cailin O’Brien-Feeney and Brad Petersen—who, as Director of Utah’s office, was the first such director in the country—the workshop was designed to teach participants how to create an office of outdoor rec in their states.

Cailin O’Brien-Feeney

Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, then the Outdoor Industry Association’s Local Recreation Advocacy Manager, at the 2016 State Offices of Outdoor Recreation Workshop

The workshop began with presentations by Benitez, Jon Snyder and Tom Adams, Utah’s new director, before breaking into working groups of participants assembled by geography (i.e., New England, Southeast, West Coast, etc.). With facilitation from Benitez, Adams, Snyder, Peterson and O’Brien-Feeney, participants developed an actionable plan for office creation in their respective regions. Participants from North Carolina credited the 2016 workshop with taking “a year and a half” off the process of launching their office.

On November 1, 2017, as part of the 2017 SHIFT Festival, SHIFT held its Second Annual State Offices of Outdoor Recreation Workshop. The workshop built on 2016’s goals of developing a “toolkit” for the creation of state offices of outdoor recreation.

The 2017 workshop was moderated by Cailin O’Brien-Feeney with assistance from Brad Petersen and Janette Heung, Colorado’s Deputy Director. Panelists included:

Panelists shared lessons learned from their efforts to create offices in a panel discussion format. As was the case with the 2016 Workshop, the panel discussion was followed by breakout groups in which participants worked in teams to develop actionable plans for office creation in their respective regions.

Click here to download an overview of ideas, tools, and lessons learned during the 2017 workshop.

Lead-Up to the 2018 Workshop

In 2017, as several more states were establishing leadership positions, the State of Colorado saw an opportunity to foster a shared vision for the future of the outdoors, to share best practices and, ideally, create a set of cross-state policy principles for maximizing the outdoor recreation sector’s many benefits.

At the urging of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, the state’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, led by Luis Benitez, helped convene the “ORec 8,” the objective of which was to advance a collaborative approach for the leadership positions. The result of this work was the first-ever Confluence Summit, which took place in Denver on January 24, 2018, and was attended by approximately 100 delegates and staff.

John Hickenlooper

Colorado John Hickenlooper addresses the proceedings at the 2016 SHIFT Festival

Leading up to and during the Summit, the delegations began to develop a collaborative working document entitled “The Colorado Accords.” The document aimed to define a collective vision and set of principles in four broad and important areas:

  • Economic development
  • Conservation and stewardship
  • Education and workforce development
  • Public health and wellness

In July, 2018, in Asheville, North Carolina, with support from REI, The Asheville Confluence Summit built on this groundbreaking work. The result was the Confluence Accords, which outline common best-practice principles in the four categories identified by the Colorado Accords and which were signed, after seven months of collective effort, by representatives from the eight states with formal offices of outdoor recreation.

In October, 2018, in Jackson, WY, SHIFT’s third annual State Offices of Outdoor Recreation Workshop focused on providing participants with strategies for achieving the goals outlined in the Public Health and Wellness pillar of the Accords.

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