Great Outdoors Week 2004 Hailed as a Great Success


Washington, D.C. - Hundreds of recreation community leaders participated in dozens of meetings and events during Great Outdoors Week 2004 and the result, according to American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall, was "outstanding progress on a wide range of key recreation initiatives and issues."

"Great Outdoors Week began with a flourish - a Presidential proclamation linking our efforts with other important recreation and conservation events under a first-ever Great Outdoors Month banner, reported Crandall. "Among the other events of the month are National Trails Day and the Get Fit with US conference, highlighting the link between recreational activities and our physical health." Crandall also quoted from the Presidential proclamation, which states that "a love of outdoor recreation remains a fundamental part of the American character. By observing Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate our commitment to appreciating and protecting our natural wealth. Outdoor recreation is an ideal way to exercise and enjoy memorable experiences with family and friends, and all across our country are scenic places that sports and nature enthusiasts can explore and help keep beautiful."

The Week's first event was a briefing entitled Harnessing New Technologies to Enhance Outdoor Experiences and Management, highlighting: the new Virtual Byways Tour soon to be available on the Internet; means to utilize PDAs and handheld GPS units to customize visits to natural and cultural sites; and progress with and the National Recreation Reservation Service. Some 300 recreation leaders then gathered at the week's opening reception, keyed to the same theme and held on the rooftop of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Week included the presentation of the 16th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award to Interior Secretary Gale Norton for her reactivation of Take Pride in America, her personal leadership of partnership efforts and her outreach to all Americans to share the healthy fun of America's Great Outdoors. "Gale Norton's support for sharing the outdoors with inner city kids and boosting volunteerism on public lands and waters converged, symbolically, when she rode down old Route 66 in the Tournament of Roses Parade bearing pledges of 400,000 hours of volunteer service on fire-damaged lands in southern California," Crandall explained.

Awards also went to 10 outstanding trail projects funded through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state trail offices. These 10 are among almost 7,000 RTP projects that can be identified and studied through a database developed by ARC and FHWA. The awards were presented at a Capitol Hill ceremony by the Coalition for Recreational Trails.

Other Capitol Hill events during the week included an intense day of lobbying by more than 100 members of the International Mountain Bicycling Association in support of higher RTP funding and a briefing on coastal recreation issues by the Clean Beaches Council.

ARC recognized seven outstanding federal employees with its Legends Awards - one award to a representative of each of the agencies that help organize the annual Partners Outdoors meeting. Top officials from the agencies participated in the presentations and briefed recreation leaders on agency initiatives and issues.

Noting that the future of federal recreation fees is a top issue for the recreation community, Crandall reported that important progress on this issue had been made during the special Recreation Exchange held during the week. The Exchange used a "town hall meeting" format and featured the co-chairs of the Federal Recreation Fees Council, Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey and Interior Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett. Among the issues discussed were the duration of any new federal fee program, recognition of volunteers, fees charged seniors and the "layering" of fees on businesses operating under federal permits and concession agreements. "We found many areas of agreement and will continue to talk," said Crandall.

Among the other events held during the week were an open house at the Forest Service and a meeting of organizations interested in co-hosting a 2005 Forum on Recreation on Western Public Lands.

As in past years, Great Outdoors Week 2004 included a day of volunteerism and outreach to urban youth through the WOW-Wonderful Outdoor World program. Nearly 150 volunteers and youth gathered on Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River, a unit of the National Park System, for a day of hard work, learning and fun B and an ice cream social hosted by Blue Bell Creameries of Texas. Participants also received souvenir shirts and hats furnished by ReserveAmerica - which also contributed two truckloads of wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes and other equipment for use by future volunteers at the island and other nearby National Park Service sites.

The Week's concluding event - a Capitol Hill Recreation Policy Forum on recreation and health - was postponed following the declaration of a National Day of Mourning to honor former President Ronald Reagan. The forum will be rescheduled for later in Great Outdoors Month.

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. ARC coordinates Great Outdoors Week each June.

June 14, 2004