Great Outdoors Week 2008

Washington, D.C. – Hundreds of recreation industry leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. to participate in meetings, events and celebrations of the significant contributions of the recreation community during Great Outdoors Week (June 9-14). This year’s theme, A Celebration of Partners Working to Keep the Outdoors in America’s Tomorrow, was designed to: increase the visibility of outdoor recreation on the national policy-making level; heighten the understanding and appreciation of recreation’s importance to the nation’s health, economy and quality of life; provide an opportunity to highlight key recreation policy initiatives and programs; and recognize outstanding leadership on behalf of outdoor recreation.

Children and nature, recreation and the 2008 elections, achievements of the Recreational Trails Program, the first National Get Outdoors Day, and more were addressed in productive gatherings throughout the week. Awards honoring the outstanding efforts and contributions of exemplary federal 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 the central feature of Great Outdoors Month, a month-long celebration of outdoor recreation that also highlights National Trails Day (June 7), National Fishing and Boating Week (June 1-8), National Get Outdoors Day (June 14), the Great American Backyard Campout (June 28) and more.

For the fifth consecutive year, a Presidential Proclamation officially designated June as Great Outdoors Month. President Bush’s proclamation was released “to honor those who work to keep our natural places beautiful and to celebrate some of our country’s favorite outdoor pastimes.” The President called on all Americans “to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to take time to visit and enjoy the great outdoors.” Nearly 40 governors from across the nation joined the President in declaring June Great Outdoors Month. Click here to see and download any or all of the Great Outdoors Month 2008 proclamations.

Monday, June 9
The Great Outdoors Week Kick-Off Reception hosted more than 300 recreation leaders at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located in Arlington Cemetery. The event was co-sponsored by ARC, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, and National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. Richard Coon, RVIA President, presented six 2008 Beacon Awards, representing outstanding efforts in harnessing the power of technology to improve public recreation experiences and federal recreation program management. To read the full story on the 2008 Beacon Award winners, click here.

Tuesday, June 10
Melissa Johnson, Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, opened the special Great Outdoors Week program, America’s Children, Leisure Time and the Outdoors, hosted at the American Association for the Advancement of Science auditorium. Ms. Johnson noted that “America – in fact, the world – is more focused than ever before on issues of childhood health, and the consequences of modern lifestyles on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.” Representatives from dozens of public and private organizations attended the program to view a special screening of the Emmy Award winning documentary, Where Do the Children Play? Joan Almon, Coordinator of the Alliance for Childhood, moderated a Q&A session on the one-hour documentary, produced for public television, that examines how sprawl, congestion, and suburban development across America are impacting children's mental and physical health and development. For more information on Where Do the Children Play?, click here.

The screening was followed by a panel of federal agency executives from the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Institutes of Health. The panel discussed current efforts to work with children and highlighted opportunities for cooperation and partnerships, as well as ways to maximize results through better coordination and shared goals. The discussion covered projects already funded and underway, including More Kids in the Woods, WE-CAN! and Take It Outside.

At the heart of Great Outdoors Week, the recreation community gathered at the Decatur House, in the shadow of the White House, to honor Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne as the 20th recipient of 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. ARC Chairman Thom Dammrich and Sam Solomon, President and CEO of The Coleman Company, presented Secretary Kempthorne with the award. The Secretary expressed his enthusiasm for the wonderful momentum occurring in reversing challenges facing our parks through the Centennial Initiative, symbolized by 3,000 new seasonal park rangers this summer. He encouraged the recreation community to “stay the course” and to prepare America the Beautiful for future generations. He also emphasized the importance of connecting today’s youth with healthy outdoor lifestyles. The evening continued with a memorable dinner as high winds and lightning forced the guests indoors from the outdoor dining tent – each carrying a chair! Secretary Kempthorne was a gracious honoree, sharing candid thoughts and personal moments throughout the evening. Secretary Kempthorne’s accomplishments as an outdoor recreation champion and enthusiast and the background of the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award are outlined here.

Wednesday, June 11
Wednesday offered blue skies and beautiful weather on the rooftop of the Department of the Interior for the Recreation Exchange and 2008 Legends Awards Presentation. Brian Waidmann, Chief of Staff for the Secretary of the Interior, spoke of the importance of Great Outdoors Week as well as the benefits of partnerships within the recreation community. In celebration of Great Outdoors Week, Mr. Waidmann invited Recreation Exchange guests to share memories of personal outdoor adventures, emphasizing the importance of passing down “magic moments” in the great outdoors. Mr. Waidmann continued his remarks with an update on the Secretary’s National Park Service Centennial efforts, saying that the Secretary is focused on “matching creative efforts with public and private partners to benefit the American public.”

ARC and top agency officials presented the 2008 Legends Awards, honoring dedicated employees of seven federal agencies whose actions have enhanced recreation opportunities significantly. ARC was honored to present a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Legends Award to John Keys, former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. For details on the Legends Award winners, click here.

At the afternoon’s Recreation and 2008 Elections Roundtable, public and private organizations discussed individual and collective opportunities for strategic participation in the political arena. The 2008 Great Outdoors Month proclamations issued by President Bush as well as nearly 40 governors were highlighted as an excellent resource to showcase in the upcoming months. A Political Toolbox Inventory for Recreation Organizations was shared as a brainstorming tool for the vast array of activities organizations could utilize to heighten their visibility during an election year. Participants in the discussion were encouraged to visit the presidential candidates’ websites, and note the opportunities to offer the campaign language on recreation issues connected to health concerns and the economy. To download the Political Toolbox, click here.
To download the Great Outdoors Month proclamations,click here.

Thursday, June 12
On Thursday, an enthusiastic group gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill for the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) 10th Annual Achievement Award ceremony to recognize exemplary use of funds from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Since the 1991 creation of federal trail support by ISTEA, some 10,000 trail projects have been funded under RTP. RTP is designed to utilize the federal taxes collected on non-highway recreational use of fuel. The program now provides $80 million annually for projects through the states, typically administered by state resource agencies. All types of trail enthusiasts benefit, including those involved in both non-motorized and motorized activities. Seven RTP funded projects and programs were recognized with CRT Achievement Awards.

U.S. Representative Tom Petri (R-WI), a very senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and long-time champion of the RTP, was a special guest at the awards program. The Congressman praised the benefits of the program and expressed his hope that RTP funding would continue to increase. Congressman Petri remarked that the accomplishments of each trail program link to multiple other trails, gaining momentum for the trail movement. CRT Co-Chairs Derrick Crandall and Marianne Fowler applauded the Congressman’s commitment to the program and asked for his insight into the upcoming transportation reauthorization process. Congressman Petri commented that the Committee will focus on the importance of sustainable funding as the Members tackle this key legislation.

For details on the winning projects and to find more information on the RTP, click here.

Saturday, June 14
Great Outdoors Week culminated in a nationwide event with over 50 sites participating in the first annual National Get Outdoors Day. This special event was designed to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun – especially for American kids. Participating partners offered opportunities for American families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities. Prime goals of the day were to reach first-time visitors to public lands and reconnect our youth to the great outdoors. On June 14, 2008, official National Get Outdoors Day sites across the nation from Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C. to the Big Bear Discovery Center in the San Bernardino National Forest welcomed new faces to the joy and highlighted the benefits of the great outdoors. For more information, go to: www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org

To view photos from Great Outdoors Week 2008, click here.