Utah's newest bureaucrat seems to be as comfortable on a mountain bike as he is in a business suit.
Brad Petersen, who was recently appointed as the state's first Director of Outdoor Recreation, hopped on his bike at 5 a.m., Thursday morning, to get to an interview in Park City with The Park Record. Outfitted with a headlight on his handlebars, Petersen said he started out at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon before dawn and climbed Mill D to the Crest Trail before descending onto the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort as the sun rose.
"There were five moose at Desolation and I was the only one there. You can't get that anywhere else," he said while parking his bike at the resort's plaza.
The post was established in January by the Utah Legislature as way to acknowledge and support the state's growing recreation-related economy. Petersen was attending the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City when the legislation was announced but, at the time, was immersed in his role as chief operating officer for Combined Resources International, an outdoor product manufacturer and distributor based in San Diego.
However, according to Petersen, his family was hankering to get back to the mountains. So, when Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development suggested that he apply for the job, Petersen threw his name in the hat. His selection was announced July 12.
Since then, Petersen says he has been busy "meeting with stakeholders." And there are a lot -- from sportsmen and athletes as diverse as cyclists, ATV riders, hunters and skiers to city, state and Congressional officials, along with industry and tourism representatives.
His hope is to be a conduit for communication between all of them.
While he had some initial concerns about bringing such disparate interests together, ultimately, Petersen admits, "I am an altruist. I believe everyone has a common goal. We all want to live here and we need to make sure there is a vibrant recreation economy so we need to strike a balance between economic development and preserving our way of life."
Petersen, who is 45, believes he is in a unique position to help achieve that objective because of his professional business background and his "endless love for Utah's outdoors." In addition to biking and skiing, he is also an avid river guide and paddle boarder.
On the business side, prior to working at CRI, Petersen was an international marketing manager and acquisition integration analyst at Intel Corp., where he honed his skills at identifying new opportunities and combining resources to take advantage of them.
Petersen says he specializes in drawing up "value propositions for companies." That is, he helps businesses define problems and then come up with solutions.
In the case of Utah's outdoor recreation industry, he suggests the only problem is harnessing its already impressive rate of growth.
"There is already a significant amount of momentum behind the recreation industry in Utah," says Petersen citing examples in Park City, Ogden, Moab and St. George. To ensure that trend continues, Petersen says he has been charged with: bringing in more recreation-related jobs, promoting Utah's natural beauty, making sure the outdoor recreation stakeholders have a voice that represents them, and "making sure that growth is balanced with our quality of life."
As to specific issues, Petersen said he is still in the listening phase and emphasized that he does not see the post as having a political role in public land management issues.
In response to a query about SkiLink, the controversial proposal to connect Canyons with Solitude via a chairlift on Forest Service land, he said, "The office of Outdoor Recreation does not and will not own those issues."
Instead, he says, "Our intent is to be a voice for the outdoor industry. My goal is purely to define the problems first and then put solutions in place."
As to recent tussles between the Outdoor Industry Association and some of the land use policies adopted by the Utah Legislature in recent sessions, the newly minted government official adopted a diplomatic stance.
"I truly believe the governor and the Legislature have shown an amazing amount of strength and fortitude in forming this office (of Outdoor Recreation) and getting behind it. It is the first job of its kind in the country at the state level and it is a big opportunity to create a nationwide standard."
Finally, while strapping on his helmet and grabbing his bike to head down the trail, Petersen summed up his new responsibilities with this:
"Clearly I am a backcountry skier and a bike rider and I want to make sure this is here for my daughters."