A new Massachusetts department wants you to get outdoors

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Boston's Esplanade, Charles River and skyline surrounded by fall foliage. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Boston's Esplanade, Charles River and skyline surrounded by fall foliage. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

It’s fall foliage season, the time of year when people head outside to see all the fall colors New England has to offer. For many, that means a trip north, maybe to New Hampshire. But a new Massachusetts department is aimed at getting more people to  spend time outdoors here in the commonwealth.

Paul Jahnige, the director of the newly-created Office of Outdoor Recreation, spoke with WBUR’s Morning Edition about the new department and what Massachusetts has to offer.

Interview Highlights

Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

On why a department focused only on outdoor recreation is necessary:

"It's really important that we have an office that specifically focuses on promoting all kinds of outdoor recreation, air based, water based, trail based. I'm really excited about focusing on doing that to promote outdoor recreation of all kinds in Massachusetts and also to focus on making outdoor recreation as welcoming, inclusive, diverse and accessible as possible."

On what he hopes to achieve in his new role:

"This is a new office. It was just created and it'll be my job to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities. I see that as really forming around three pillars. First is promotion, second is inclusion and the third is sustainability.

"We want to promote Massachusetts as a great place to recreate outdoors. We want more people choosing to come to Massachusetts and we want more residents choosing to stay and play in Massachusetts.

"Second, we want to make Massachusetts recreation activities and spaces welcoming, diverse and accessible.

"Third, we want to make sure as we grow outdoor recreation in Massachusetts that it's both resilient to climate change and also sustainable, and we want to make sure our natural capital continues to be as strong and healthy as our community and economic capital."

On what challenges he’s expecting:

"One of the challenges that we're going to be facing is how to make sure that recreation across the state meets everybody's needs and that it is accessible for all. I think it's important again that as we grow recreation in Massachusetts, that as we do that, it's sustainable and resilient and protects our natural spaces and places."

On how he plans to make things more accessible for people who live in the city or come from low income backgrounds:

"It's also about the language that we use. It’s about how easy it is to find activities that you want to participate in, and how easy it is to get to those activities. So we want to focus on transportation and alternatives to car based transportation.

"We also want to look at programs for language. We want to make sure that those who don't necessarily speak English as a first language have access to information in languages that they want.

"Gear can often be a barrier. So we're going to look at programs and work with partners to make gear more accessible."

On how Massachusetts can be competitive with other New England states when it comes to outdoor recreation:

"I think Massachusetts is an amazing place to play outdoors. We have everything from the coasts to rivers and mountains. We compare very well to our neighboring states. Some of that is just about how we market Massachusetts and how we make sure that people can find where and how to play in Massachusetts."

On what he likes to do outdoors in Massachusetts:

"I am born and bred in Massachusetts. I grew up in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and I love to explore our forests and parks around here.

"I'm a trail runner, I participate in triathlons. I'm a boater, a paddler, a cross country skier in the winter, and a downhill skier as well. I really enjoy just about any kind of activity that gets me outside.

"In this role, I look forward to exploring those activities that I haven't necessarily had an opportunity to try yet."

This segment aired on September 29, 2023.


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Rupa Shenoy Morning Edition Host
Rupa Shenoy hosts WBUR's Morning Edition.


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Samantha Coetzee Associate Producer
Samantha Coetzee is the associate producer for WBUR's Morning Edition.



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