DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr will appoint assistant commissioner Erika Rivers  director of the Parks and Trails Division when its current director, Courtland Nelson, retires in April, the agency said Monday.

Rivers, 41, was appointed assistant commissioner by Landwehr in 2011 and currently supervises three DNR divisions: parks and trails, fish and wildlife, and enforcement.

“I asked Erika to make this move because I believe she is uniquely positioned to continue moving the Parks and Trails Division toward realizing its vision of creating unforgettable experiences that inspire people to pass along the love for the outdoors to current and future generations,’” Landwehr said.  “Erika has proven herself a strong leader during her three years in the commissioner’s office.”

As assistant commissioner, Rivers oversaw  development of strategic plans, development planning for the Fort Snelling Upper Post, Lake Vermilion State Park and La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, and the initiation of Phase II of off-highway vehicle system planning.

Rivers will oversee a $103 million annual budget and a staff of 1,200 full- and part-time employees. State parks and trails host more than 9 million visitors each year and help support Minnesota’s $11.9 billion tourism industry. The division manages:

76 state parks and recreation areas.
62 state forest campgrounds and day use areas.
Thousands of miles of state trails: forest (390), horse (1,000), ski (730), off-highway vehicle (1,000), snowmobile (950), water trails (4,530).
1,500 public water access sites.
350 fishing piers.
“It has been my privilege to serve in the commissioner’s office under Commissioner Landwehr for the past three years,” Rivers said. “I am honored and excited to be returning to the Parks and Trails Division to lead the talented staff and important work that’s being done there to connect people to the outdoors and Minnesota’s natural and cultural resources.”

Rivers holds a doctorate in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota.

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