Welcome to the first Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation (OOR) newsletter! We are excited to begin sharing quarterly updates with you. In these newsletters, we’ll aim to communicate timely outdoor recreation news and resources for our industry and community partners across the state.
Outdoor recreation is a growing economic force for states and communities across the country. This industry in Arkansas contributes $3.5 billion to the state’s GDP, supports more than 39,000 jobs and nearly $1.8 billion in salary and wages. The Arkansas OOR was created to lead the state’s efforts to grow the outdoor recreation economy. We strive to establish Arkansas as a top destination for outdoor recreation and a place where outdoor businesses can thrive.
We have successfully completed a full year of the OOR. The structure of the office was formalized, which included the creation of the strategic plan, mission statement and main goals for the office. In addition to building internal structures, more outward-facing initiatives were completed. A new logo, website, blog and social media accounts were launched, allowing for further promotional opportunities and resource sharing with our partners.
The Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Grants Program (ORGP), historically housed within the Division of State Parks, was successfully moved to the OOR. This program provides grants to cities and counties across the state for outdoor recreation infrastructure projects. The addition of this team to the OOR was a vital strategic move that has allowed the OOR to provide a tangible resource to communities seeking increased access to nature in their local areas. In addition, the legislature approved a $1.5 million appropriation increase for the ORGP, further proving how important infrastructure investment is to the growth of the overall outdoor recreation economy in Arkansas.
We hosted the National Governor’s Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network annual conference and brought recreation leaders across the country together in The Natural State. During this event, the Arkansas OOR joined the Confluence of States, an organization of offices of outdoor recreation across the country, in developing a national platform to grow the outdoor recreation industry. We also hosted the new Southwest Regional Manager of the National Marine Manufacturers Association on a tour of Arkansas boat manufacturers. Additionally, we co-hosted the launch event to open an Arkansas chapter of Black Women Who Kayak+, bringing more than 30 new paddlers together in central Arkansas.
A priority during the first year for the Arkansas OOR has been to build relationships and become the statewide one-stop shop and resource hub for all things outdoor recreation. This has included successful connections with other state agencies, educational institutions, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, legislators and elected officials, outdoor recreation companies, and with statewide and national outdoor organizations.
Growing up in Arkansas and hunting and fishing the backwoods, paddling and camping through our state parks, and exploring all of the outdoor opportunities our state has to offer, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to lead such a dynamic organization. It has truly been an exciting and rewarding first year and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
— Katherine Andrews, Office of Outdoor Recreation Director