By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
NORTH CONWAY – About 50 of the state’s outdoor leaders took to the sunny but rain-swollen Saco River for a six-mile paddle through quick water on Wednesday, then had dinner and networked on a beach along its banks around a fire pit.
The event was set up by Granite Outdoor Alliance,https://www.graniteoutdooralliance.org/ whose mission is to sustainably grow the outdoor economy in New Hampshire. It included an opportunity for many to meet the state’s new outdoor czar for the first time.
The paddling event dubbed a “Rocktails & Streams: Dinner on the Saco” was a fundraiser and networking opportunity for Granite Outdoor Alliance, with Beach Family Camping at 776 White Mountain Highway providing the canoes, livery, and beach for the gathering, and Rek-lis Brewery of Bethlehem providing the food and beverages.
Only four months on the job, with a young family in Merrimack, Scott Crowder is the nation’s 16th state outdoor director.
Crowder got out of canoe along the route with others to collect trash along the sand cliffs lined with swallows. The swim floats appeared abandoned and the deflated plastic water floats were found on the sandy shores.
The group negotiated their canoes over rocks and submerged trees, along a wild side of North Conway many had not seen before while taking in views of the Moat Mountain range, White Horse Cliff, and the verdant ski trails at Mount Cranmore Resort.
There, among the paddlers were state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, who was just returning from Colorado on a national conference on environmental innovation. He has been an advocate for the outdoor industry in the state.
There were other leaders of many regional and local non-profit organizations such as the Appalachian Mountain Club and Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. Paddling the six miles from the first bridge to the Beach Camping area were members of retail, trade associations, hospitality, and advocacy groups for professional guide services, ski and snowboard industry, and those who provide retail products for the industry.
Crowder is on a networking tour of the state, he said, to find out what the state leadership needs are.
InDepthnh.org will interview him in the fall to see what he has learned from his rounds and what initiatives he will get behind.
Economic development, conservation, infrastructure development including workforce housing issues, and businesses connectivity are all in the job description. He noted Arkansas has now become the 17th state in the nation to create a similar position.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the creation in June of the office of outdoor recreation within the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Crowder knows the Lakes Region well having grown up on Lake Winnipesaukee in summers and as founder of the successful Pond Hockey Classic each winter. For the past 10 years, he has been a member of the tourism board in the Lakes Region.
Growing up in Nashua as well as Lake Winnipesaukee, Crowder was chosen to be the new – and it’s a long title – director of Recreation Industry Development within the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs.
The money for the position came from a federal Northern Borders grant, obtained by the congressional delegation to foster economic development in rural regions. Implementation of the new outdoor arm was slowed by the pandemic.
For some states, the outdoor czar’s associated offices are with conservation or parks, but in the Granite State, the job is part of tourism and economic development wing led by Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs.
According to a study, the Granite Outdoor Alliance reports the outdoor industry in New Hampshire makes up about 37,000 jobs and provides in the area of $528 million in local taxes paid per year.
Both tourists from out of state and residents enjoy the outdoor resources, making it a draw for young adults to come to raise their kids, hike, ski, boat and enjoy the varied seasons and landscape options.
Keeping it the jewel that it is is important, Crowder said.