New leader will guide Wilderness Inquiry through a strategic planning process and further the organization’s mission and commitment to ensuring that everyone belongs in the outdoors.
Wilderness Inquiry is excited to announce the selection of a new executive director! Erika Rivers will begin serving in this leadership position on November 30, 2021. With nearly two decades of experience in the field of conservation and outdoor recreation, Rivers will focus on strategically advancing the organization’s mission to connect people to one another and the natural world through outdoor adventure. Rivers most recently served as Director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
After 42 years of building Wilderness Inquiry into a global leader in inclusive outdoor adventure, our founder, Greg Lais, stepped back from day-to-day operations in early 2020. Kim Keprios, who had served as interim executive director, was unanimously selected to serve as executive director in May 2020 to guide the organization through the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the executive search. Over the past four months, our Board of Directors launched an Executive Search Committee with the support of the firm CohenTaylor.
“Erika’s passion, energy, and expertise is clear,” said Ed Spencer, Wilderness Inquiry’s Board Chair. “She also brings a collaborative leadership style that is a perfect fit with the current team at Wilderness Inquiry.”
Understanding inclusion and lifting up our mission – to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures – are crucial parts of the executive director’s job description. Rivers’ past experience positions her strongly to do this. Throughout Rivers’ career, she has also held a number of positions connecting people to the natural world, where she was a catalyst for several initiatives to increase multicultural customer service and to include more underserved populations in the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation. When asked about taking on the role at Wilderness Inquiry, Rivers said, “Wilderness Inquiry has an outstanding team and a national reputation for ensuring all people feel welcome in America’s outdoor spaces, regardless of ability or background. The organization is poised to enrich even more lives through innovative expansion of its life-changing programs to new audiences in the coming years, and I am thrilled to be part of that journey forward.”
According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2021 Participation Trends Report, 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior – the highest participation rate ever recorded. “Ensuring accessible, inclusive outdoor experiences is more important than ever,” said Rivers. “I look forward to leveraging strategic partnerships and using my skills to carry forward Wilderness Inquiry’s work in this area.”