Utah has appointed a new director for its Division of Outdoor Recreation, handing over the reins to an industry that has grown more than 27% in the past year to more than $6.1 billion in economic activity.
Jason Curry, a former deputy director of Bountiful’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, will take charge just as a new federal report showed a booming increase in the economic importance of outdoor recreation, with the industry now accounting for nearly 70,000 Jobs nationwide according to the US Department of Commerce.
The industry has seen steady growth for decades but exploded in 2021 as people took to the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the federal report. People from across the US and beyond now associate Utah with outdoor recreation, Curry said.
“Utah tops the charts for our variety of recreational opportunities,” he said in an email. “Recreation is not only a vital pillar of Utah’s economy, it’s part of who we are. More than anything, it is central to the amazing outdoor lifestyle we enjoy here.”
Curry is tasked with expanding and improving the state’s recreational opportunities, including by promoting outdoor activities as healthy for the mind and body. The state is known for its hiking, skiing, hunting and other outdoor attractions, as well as its lush open spaces and publicly owned forests.
Southwest Utah’s red rock scenery and sunny weather have made the region popular with cyclists, off-road enthusiasts and others, with the tourism industry built around Zion National Park expanding into the surrounding areas.
Tourism generated more than $15 million in direct tax revenue throughout Washington County in 2021, according to the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office. While Zion attracted more than 5 million visitors, an additional 3.3 million were counted in smaller attractions such as state parks at Sand Hollow, Snow Canyon, Quail Creek and Gunlock.
Curry, who has lived in Bountiful for 24 years with his wife and two children, loves mountain biking, skiing, OHV and snowmobiling, rock climbing, camping, sailing and just about every other form of outdoor recreation.
Most recently, Curry was associate director of the Department of Wildfires and State Properties, overseeing six state area offices, the department’s law enforcement program, public affairs and safety program. Before being promoted to associate director, he was the department’s public information officer and chief investigator. He also served on the Davis County Search and Rescue Team for many years.
“Jason brings a wealth of expertise that will help advance the department’s mission,” said Joe Ferry, the executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, in an email. “It is critical that we continue to build a strong, sustainable outdoor recreation economy with opportunities that improve the quality of life in Utah by providing the best outdoor experiences possible.”
Curry began his career at DNR in 1999 as Public Affairs Coordinator, where he orchestrated public information and branding for the department for eight years. He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in economics.