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Jill McGranahan and Nathan Fey with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade float with Josh Veenstra down the Gates of Lodore stretch of the Green River. (Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun)

Nathan Fey, who took over as director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry in 2019, is leaving his post next month. 

Fey, a sixth generation Coloradan who spent 12 years as the state’s regional director of American Whitewater, is leaving the state’s recreation office to serve as director of a Colorado-based philanthropic foundation. Fey could not be reached to discuss his new position.

“Nathan is an avid champion for the outdoor recreation industry and his determined advocacy has positioned Colorado as the basecamp for the outdoor industry,” Pat Meyers, the director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said in a statement. 

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Office is about to begin distributing nearly $10 million in grants from the Economic Development Association, helping the state’s recreation economy rebound from the pandemic. 

The state’s outdoor recreation economy wilted in 2020, contributing $9.6 billion to the state’s GDP, down from $12.2 billion in 2019, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Last year outdoor recreation employed 120,000 Coloradans who earned $5.7 billion, down from 149,000 workers who earned $6.4 billion in 2019.

Fey recently began working to increase outdoor recreation opportunities in marginalized communities using the new Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program. Using Colorado Lottery money, the program awards grants to communities for outdoor programs, gear rentals, equipment, transportation and staff supervision. 

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Office formed in 2015 under then Gov. John Hickenlooper as the second state office dedicated to fostering the outdoor recreation economy. This spring the office for the first time secured annual funding as a line item in the state budget. With the office signed into statute by Gov. Jared Polis, the Colorado recreation office becomes a perpetual part of state government.

The statement from OEDIT announcing Fey’s departure noted his “invaluable stewardship” in establishing consistent funding for the recreation office. 

Fey’s last day is Jan. 14. The office’s deputy director, Samantha Albert, will serve as the interim director. 

Jason Blevins lives in Eagle with his wife, two teenage girls and a dog named Gravy. He writes The Outsider, a weekly newsletter covering the outdoors industry from the inside out. Topic expertise: Western Slope, public lands, outdoors,...