LEWISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) sent a senior representative to Lewisburg to better understand what makes the community unique in its recreational opportunities.
“Outdoor recreation cannot be an industry in its own right,” said Nathan Reigner, who was appointed the first-ever executive director of outdoor recreation in January.
Reigner, who has a PhD in Natural Resource Management from the University of Vermont and reports directly to DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, evaluates outdoor recreational opportunities across the state and tries to determine how best to commercialize them and expand access to the state’s recreational infrastructure. He looks ahead to what outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania will look like in 2050 and beyond.
According to DCNR, Pennsylvania is the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country, generating billions of dollars in economic impact each year.
Reigner began his tour of Lewisburg at Hufnagle Park with Mayor Kendy Alvarez and other county and area officials.
Alvarez explained the history of the park and details of the recent updates to the play equipment. She mentioned that the creek that runs through the park is being tested by students at Bucknell University and believes the water quality has improved.
Alvarez told Reigner that the play equipment was donated by Playworld. Amenities are state-of-the-art, according to Playworld, and not like any other park in the nation. It was donated as a thank you from the company to the community’s first responders following a fire at their facilities
“We saw the devastation,” Alvarez said of Lewisburg’s past.
Lewisburg Neighborhoods Director Taylor Lightman gave Reigner a description of recreational opportunities in the community.
Brian Auman of the Bald Eagle Mountain Biking Association discussed future plans for an amphitheater to replace the pavilion at Hufnagle Park.
According to Borough Manager Bill Lowthert, the amphitheater will leave plenty of room for entertainment and social distancing should another pandemic take hold of society.
“It’s about what makes the community work,” said Ellen Ruby, director of Lewisburg Downtown Partnership.
Andrew Miller, executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, said the community was lucky that Reigner visited him and said Lewisburg was one of the first communities he visited.
Miller said people often overlook the great amenities in their own backyard.
“Understanding what we have and looking at it through the eyes of visitors and tourists makes us all tourism ambassadors for our community and region,” Miller said. “What residents enjoy, tourists will love.”
Miller said he believes change has to happen from the ground up.
Reigner toured Lewisburg Landing and was briefed on the impact and opportunities a walking trail on the bridge adjacent to Soldier’s Park could have.
Lightman said the bridge is a dream concept between him and Alvarez. He also mentioned that Lewisburg Neighborhoods recently restarted their Public Paddle program and more information can be found on their website lewisburgneighborhoods.org.
At Wolfe Field, Reigner was told of the tremendous potential the park could have. Possible plans for a bike park are in the works.
Reigner and many of the same officials are expected to tour the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Thursday morning.