Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta Receives 2003 Great Outdoors Award

Washington, D.C. — Norman Y. Mineta, United States Secretary of Transportation, is the recipient of the 15th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award, the national recreation community’s highest honor. The Great Outdoors Award will be presented on Tuesday evening, June 10, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, located at the entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery. The presentation is a key feature of Great Outdoors Week 2003 – June 9 -13 – which highlights the partnerships that enable outdoor recreation to contribute to the nation’s health and quality of life and the efforts of individuals whose vision has established and protected the nation’s magnificent parks, forests, refuges and other protected lands.

The Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award was created in 1989 in honor of the late conservationist and recreation industry pioneer whose six-decade career combined engineering genius and active work on behalf of the great outdoors. The award itself is comprised of a specially-mounted Steuben hand-crafted sculpture. Previous honorees include President George H.W. Bush, National Geographic Society Chairman Gil Grosvenor, U.S. Senators John Breaux, Frank Murkowski and the late John Chafee, and National Park Service Director Fran Mainella.

The recreation community is delighted to honor Secretary Mineta with the Great Outdoors Award at a time when hundreds of recreation community leaders can add personal expressions of thanks. Just a year ago, the Secretary played a very important role in Great Outdoors Week 2002 as he announced the designation of new All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways. This year, we are celebrating his continuing national leadership, which benefits America’s Great Outdoors and those who seek to use this shared legacy. As the nation’s elected leaders craft a new surface transportation policy, the Bush Administration’s SAFETEA proposal will clearly be the central focus of the debate. And SAFETEA advances strongly the programs of highest importance to recreation: overall mobility; scenic byways; the Recreational Trails Program; motorboat fuel taxes used by the Wallop-Breaux Fund; Transportation Enhancements; and roads on public lands including parks and forests,” said Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), which coordinates Great Outdoors Week.

Secretary Mineta has played a major role in the nation’s transportation policies for decades. He served as chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Public Works and Transportation Committee between 1992 and 1994 and chaired the committee’s Aviation Subcommittee between 1981 and 1988. He became chairman of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee in 1989 and was a key author of the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), legislation of tremendous importance to the recreation and tourism communities. ISTEA created the National Scenic Byways Program, what is now the Recreational Trails Program, and the Transportation Enhancements (TE) provisions. The nation now has nearly 13,000 miles of recreational trails created from abandoned rail corridors, the vast majority converted since 1991. During his chairmanship of the Public Works Committee, the Congress enacted “mid-course” surface transportation legislation, which addressed initial challenges faced by the byways and trails programs and which designated a priority National Highway System vital to access to recreation sites.

Prior to joining President Bush’s Administration, Mr. Mineta served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, becoming the first Asian-Pacific American to serve in the cabinet. He is the first Secretary of Transportation to have previously served in another cabinet position. Prior to joining the Commerce Department, he was a vice president at Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Three former Great Outdoors Award recipients will participate in the award presentation, adding personal insights into the importance of Secretary Mineta’s efforts on behalf of the Great Outdoors: former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater; U.S. Representative James Oberstar and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association President David Humphreys.

Great Outdoors Week is an annual event made possible by the support of more than 30 recreation companies and associations. The event builds national awareness of and appreciation for the importance of recreation as a positive social and economic force in the U.S. Events during the week range from a policy forum on recreation fees on federal lands to a Capitol Hill awards presentation for outstanding trail projects. The week also includes a day of fun and learning for more than 200 D.C. youth on and along the Anacostia River through the WOW-Wonderful Outdoor World program, as well as volunteer efforts at public sites in the District of Columbia led by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton under the Take Pride in America program. Richard Pombo, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Committee, will also play a key role in the week, addressing the June Recreation Exchange.