Report on Great Outdoors Week 2007

Great Outdoors Week 2007

Washington, D.C. - Hundreds of leaders from the outdoor recreation community participated in meetings, discussions and celebrations of significant achievements during Great Outdoors Week 2007 (June 11-16). The need to reassess current recreation policies, the value of improving and expanding on successful recreation programs, and the importance of reconnecting children to the outdoors were all central themes of this year’s Great Outdoors Week, entitled Get Outside and into the Great Outdoors.

Youth programs, volunteerism, public-private partnerships, achievements of and future opportunities for the Recreational Trails and National Scenic Byways Programs, the Recreation Forums initiative, and more were addressed in productive gatherings throughout the week. Awards honoring the outstanding efforts and contributions of exemplary land management agency employees and recreation community leaders also contributed to the Week’s excitement.

Great Outdoors Week is coordinated by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) and includes events hosted by more than a dozen national organizations and federal agencies. Great Outdoors Week is a central feature of Great Outdoors Month, a month-long celebration of outdoor recreation that also highlights National Trails Day (June 2), National Fishing and Boating Week (June 2-10), the Great American Backyard Camp-out (June 23) and National Clean Beaches Week (June 29-July 5).

For the fourth consecutive year, a Presidential Proclamation officially designated June as Great Outdoors Month. President George W. Bush extolled the virtues of outdoor recreation and volunteerism on public lands and praised the new National Parks Centennial Initiative in his proclamation. The President noted, “By working together with the private and non-profit sectors and the general public, we can help preserve our local parks, lakes, rivers, and working lands.” He added, “We are also encouraging cooperative conservation, innovation, and new technologies to help ensure America’s outdoors remain places where families and friends can learn, exercise, and create meaningful memories.” The full proclamation appears at the end of this report. And this year, governors from across the nation – more than 20 – joined the President in declaring June Great Outdoors Month in their home states. Click here to see the state proclamations of Great Outdoors Month 2007.

Monday, June 11

The high-energy week began with an organizational meeting for the Council of Wonderful Outdoor World (WOW) Friends. WOW was created more than 10 years ago and has helped more than 20,000 urban youth discover the healthy fun of the outdoors. Operating in six cities across the nation, WOW is based upon a partnership involving national organizations, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, The Walt Disney Company and The Coleman Company, as well as local partners like city park and recreation agencies and local businesses. In 2007, WOW opened a national office in Arizona and is now recruiting new partners and supporters and planning to expand WOW’s efforts, while boosting support for the existing programs. Federal agency representatives, Disney and Coleman executives, and members of key nonprofit organizations gathered on Monday afternoon to discuss the exciting path ahead. At the session, Disney Vice President Kris McNamara and ARC President Derrick Crandall reviewed WOW’s accomplishments and acting WOW Executive Director Denise Meridith outlined efforts planned for the next several months. Important commitments to the program were made by several organizations, including Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort – which offered to host a fundraiser/meeting – and a number of youth-service groups.

More than 300 recreation leaders gathered Monday evening for a reception at the Reserve Officers Association to kick off Great Outdoors Week. The event was co-sponsored by ARC, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). Both Richard Coon, RVIA President, and Derrick Crandall commended the Forest Service’s “More Kids in the Woods” initiative and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s new priority mission of connecting people to the outdoors. Guests admired the collection of more than 20 state proclamations of Great Outdoors Month on display for the first time at the reception. To see a photo slide show of the event, click here.

Tuesday, June 12

Tuesday’s midday heat on the rooftop of the Department of the Interior complemented the enthusiasm at a terrific Recreation Exchange and 2007 Legends Awards Presentation. Brian Waidmann, Chief of Staff for the Secretary of the Interior, spoke of the importance of Great Outdoors Month to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, as well as the benefits of partnerships within the recreation community. Dan Wenk, National Park Service Deputy Director for Operations, provided insightful comments on how organizations such as the American Recreation Coalition can get people outdoors and engaged in various activities, especially those involving visits to national parks. Wenk explained that recognizing the efforts and dedication of individuals was key to the success of the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative, a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. ARC and top agency officials presented the 2007 Legends Awards, honoring dedicated employees of seven federal agencies whose actions have enhanced recreation opportunities significantly. For details on the Legends Award Winners, click here. To see a photo slide show of the event, click here.

On Tuesday evening, over 200 recreation leaders attended a gala reception to honor Richard D. Bass, owner and chairman of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and recipient of the recreation community’s most prestigious award – the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award. The Coleman Award has been presented each year since 1989 to an individual whose personal efforts have substantially contributed to enhancing outdoor experiences in America. Dick Bass is an extraordinary individual who has not only inspired others with his feat of climbing the highest peak on all seven continents, but has turned his resort into an exemplary model of a public-private partnership between private resorts and national forests. Additionally, Bass plays an active role in the Snowbird Sports Education Foundation, Wasatch Adaptive Sports, Snowbird Renaissance Center, Utah Federation for Youth, Salt Lake County Park and Recreation, Nature Conservancy, National Forest Foundation, and the Boys and Girls Club of Utah. He was a founding member of the Recreation Roundtable and has remained active in this organization, promoting public-private cooperation to enhance outdoor experiences of the public. He played a central role in the creation of the WOW-Wonderful Outdoor World program in Utah and he and Snowbird continue to be vital to this successful effort, which has helped thousands of disadvantaged and troubled youth connect with the outdoors. The award was presented to Mr. Bass by Gary Kiedaisch, CEO of The Coleman Company, accompanied by Richard Coon, President of RVIA and ARC Vice Chair, and Derrick Crandall. To see a photo slide show of the event, click here.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey met with Dick and Alice Bass, Bob Bonar (President and COO, Snowbird Resort), Gary Kiedaisch, Jim Bedwell (Director of Recreation, Forest Service), Brendan Ross (President, ReserveAmerica) and Jenn Dice (Government Affairs Director, International Mountain Bicycling Association) to congratulate Bass as the recipient of the Coleman Award and to mark Great Outdoors Month.

Wednesday, June 13

On Wednesday morning, AAA hosted a meeting of the Scenic Byways National Partners. Representatives of a dozen public and private organizations discussed past achievements and future opportunities for Scenic Byways. Michelle Johnson, Director of America’s Byways Resource Center, reported on the success of the May 22nd Byways 2021 Symposium. That event featured a televised link between Washington and Baltimore, which involved more than 500 people, with moderators Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Norm Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Derrick Crandall announced that the National Geographic Society has decided to follow up on the success of its popular “Guide to America’s Scenic Highways and Byways,” recently reissued in its third edition, with a related guidebook entitled “National Geographic Guide to Scenic Waterways.” The partners also agreed to continue the Byways 2021 blog as a way to bring focus to issues that should be addressed in the anticipated 2009 surface transportation legislation.

At the afternoon’s Recreation Policy Forum, more than 50 participants discussed forging and pursuing a Recreation Action Menu, a direct outgrowth of the 2007 Recreation Forum initiative. Co-convened by the American Recreation Coalition and the National Forest Foundation in partnership with the Forest Service, five regional Forums and a national Forum were held across the country throughout March and April of 2007 to identify challenges faced by the recreation community and recognize exemplary programs to consider for expansion and replication. Those sessions drew more than 1,200 people. Wednesday’s meeting, the first designed to encourage action on the ideas and suggestions presented at the Forums, featured the release of the National Report on the Recreation Forum Initiative. To read the National Report, click here. Action teams were formed and team leaders selected to pursue five areas of need identified by the Forum project: access issues; partnerships and volunteerism; youth service organizations and public lands; funding issues; and travel, tourism and recreation.

Thursday, June 14

On Thursday, a large crowd gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building for the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) 8th Annual Achievement Award Ceremony to recognize exemplary use of funds from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Seven projects were honored for outstanding accomplishments. CRT also recognized John Fegan and Rob Draper for the leadership they had demonstrated during their careers at the Federal Highway Administration.

Special guest U.S. Representative Nick Joe Rahall II (D - WV), Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and a very senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, commented on his continued commitment to the RTP. He praised the benefits of the program and, while expressing his concerns about the pressures on programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund, told the group he hoped to see funding for the program grow. He joined CRT Co-Chairs Derrick Crandall and Marianne Fowler, Senior Vice President of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, to present one of the seven CRT awards to a project in his home state of West Virginia. To see a photo slide show of the event, click here. For details on the winning projects, click here.

Since its inception 16 years ago, RTP has grown dramatically to nearly $90 million in federal funds annually and has funded more than 10,000 trails projects that have expanded and enhanced recreational opportunities, protected wildlife and special sites, and educated many young Americans on the importance of the Great Outdoors. CRT, representing the nation’s leading recreational trails interests, has created a data base of funded projects and is already looking ahead to 2009 and the next surface transportation legislation. CRT’s goal is to recover at least half of the estimated $286 million in federal gasoline taxes generated annually by non-highway recreational activities.

ARC, the national voice for America’s recreation community, is a nonprofit federation of more than 100 organizations representing enthusiasts, private-sector providers of recreation opportunities, and producers of recreation equipment.

Great Outdoors Month, 2007
By The President of The United States of America
A Proclamation

During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the rich blessings of our Nation’s natural beauty, and we renew our commitment to protecting our environment so that we can leave our children and grandchildren a healthy and flourishing land. This month is also an opportunity to pay tribute to those whose hard work and dedication keep our country’s open spaces beautiful and accessible to our citizens.

Through recreational activities such as fishing, skiing, biking, and nature watching, we can teach our young people about the wonders of our Nation’s landscapes. Experiencing our Nation’s natural splendor contributes to healthier lives for our citizens and a deeper appreciation for the great outdoors.

My Administration is working to protect and conserve our natural wonders for future generations. To keep our National Park System vibrant, we requested the highest increase ever in park operations funding in the FY 2008 Budget and launched the National Parks Centennial Initiative. We are also promoting responsible stewardship and conservation of our air, water, and land. Harmful air pollutants are down more than 10 percent since 2001, but there is more work to be done. Through the “Twenty in Ten” plan, my Administration aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and reduce America’s dependence on oil by cutting our gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

In addition, we have restored, improved, or protected millions of acres of wetlands and enhanced our parks and wildlife refuges. We are also encouraging cooperative conservation, innovation, and new technologies to help ensure America’s outdoors remain places where families and friends can learn, exercise, and create meaningful memories.

Countless citizens volunteer their time and talents to protect America’s natural resources. By working together with the private and non-profit sectors and the general public, we can help preserve our local parks, lakes, rivers, and working lands. I am grateful for the efforts of all those who work to conserve our Nation’s natural wonders, and I encourage citizens to visit to learn about more opportunities to help keep our environment healthy and safe.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2007 as Great Outdoors Month. I call on all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities and to take time to experience and enjoy the outdoors.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.