In 2019, New Hampshire became the 16th state to establish an outdoor recreation office. This April, the New Hampshire Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development—which is housed within the state’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs—hired its first director, Scott Crowder.
Crowder, a Nashua native, brings years of experience in outdoor recreation to the new position, having founded the annual Pond Hockey Classic, a recreation equipment rental shop on Lake Winnipesaukee, and an event consulting company. AMC recently spoke with Crowder to learn about his background and his vision for expanding an outdoor industry that provides 37,000 jobs and $528 million in state and local taxes, according to the Granite Outdoor Alliance.
What was your background before this position? How did you get to this position?
My dad was a college hockey coach and my mom was a teacher, so that gave us some flexibility in the summer so that we would then move up and spend our summers on Lake Winnipesaukee in a town called Meredith. I grew up spending my time in organized sports and spending summers on the lake—canoeing, kayaking, hiking, waterskiing, wakeboarding. I also spent as much time as I could growing up on the ski slopes.
I studied sport management and marketing at UMass-Amherst and played four years for the hockey program. When I graduated, I realized I wanted to try to start a small event business. I had two businesses—one was a small event business and the other one was an outdoor recreation rental shop on Lake Winnipesaukee.
I’ve been super involved in the Lakes Region from a tourism perspective. I’ve been on the Lakes Region Tourism Board for about 10 years now. I’ve stayed really involved and really tried to wave the flag for New Hampshire. I had been pushing for the state to take a look at making a sports commission. At that point, New Hampshire had just lost the NASCAR race and we lost an Ironman [Triathlon] event in the Lakes Region, and sports commissions have been proven to be worth their stay in other regions in helping to keep and attract events.
I agreed to join a committee of stakeholders across New Hampshire in the outdoor recreation space to look at the viability of what an outdoor recreation office would look like for New Hampshire. I didn’t have any interest in running it at that point, but I worked really closely with the state this year for our Pond Hockey Classic to navigate all of the COVID guidelines, and with that I had a number of conversations with [N.H. Commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs Taylor Caswell] and ultimately decided to throw my hat in the ring for this position.
What is the purpose of this new office?
In New Hampshire, we have a really unique and diverse outdoor recreation economy. It’s already so ingrained in the way of life in New Hampshire.
There was a whole framework when the bill was passed. It covers everything from conservation and stewardship to economic development, business promotion, travel and tourism, infrastructure, analysis, and maintenance. The onion is multilayered.
At this point, we have the ability to go out there and have conversations. Since taking the position, I’ve gone on a wide-reaching listening tour across the state. I’m really trying to get the lay of the land, understand the stakeholders, and understand what the demand and need is and where this office can be positioned to provide the most impact and be most effective.
How will this office balance the needs of economic development with conservation?
It’s a tough question and a tough answer. We aren’t the only state dealing with the question of how to develop but also how do you maintain and conserve. The great thing about this position is now we can get a number of people from different regions to the table and have conversations and collectively come up with ways that specifically work for New Hampshire and our community.
It’s a balancing act. The good thing is we already have great organizations that are doing things, and that are so ingrained on the conservation and stewardship side. A goal of mine is to support and enhance their efforts.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the outdoor recreation industry so far, and how do you think it will in the future?
I saw it first-hand with my involvement with the shop on Lake Winnipesaukee. It was a gangbuster year across the board—not just in New Hampshire. The trends were going there before the pandemic, but the pandemic definitely put some fuel on that fire.
It’s exciting. We might see a little bit of a pullback after last year, but the pandemic was able to either introduce people who had never experienced the outdoors through an activity they might fall in love with or re-introduce people who may have not taken the time to get themselves outside.
A huge driver of travel and tourism in New Hampshire is outdoor recreation, and across the state, bookings are up at these locations where outdoor recreation is the focus. Business is good in this sector because of the pandemic. Now it’s on us to make sure we can maintain it and continue it, while solving some of the problems like congestion or overuse when people are out recreating.
What’s your go-to spot to spend time outdoors in New Hampshire?
For me, I was very fortunate to grow up with Lake Winnipesaukee as my backyard. There are some amazing spots on the lake, like a quiet cove off Stonedam Island. I’ve also been a season pass holder at Loon Mountain for a long time, and that’s an absolute blast. The quality of life that you have in New Hampshire because you have these outdoor recreation amenities in your background is unmatched.