Gov. Hutchinson announces new office of outdoor recreation

Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 12:49 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KSLA) - Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke Monday, Jun 21 to make a major announcement about tourism in the State of Arkansas.

He’s signing an executive order to create the Office of Outdoor Recreation. The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board will appoint up to 10 people to work in the new office, which will focus on stewardship, investments, and marketing for the state’s outdoor resources.

“We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and you don’t have to look far in any direction to know that,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “We want to keep it that way. The Office of Outdoor Recreation will maximize opportunities for outdoor recreation in Arkansas, while preserving our past and conserving our beauty.”

Blue Mountain Natural Area, a 459-acre track of land west of Rattlesnake Ridge in central Arkansas, will also be added to the state’s list of outdoor recreational sites and was approved by the National Heritage Commission. With this acquisition, the state now has charge of all three mountains in Maumelle Pinnacles, including Pinnacle Mountain and Rattlesnake Ridge.

[Click here to see drone footage of Blue Mountain]

Stacy Hurst, the secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, says Arkansas is the first state in the south to add such an office. She says 16 other states in the country have created similar outdoor recreation offices or task forces. The goal of the office is to raise awareness about good stewardship of public lands and waters, as well as to educate children and encourage tourism in the state.

The new office will reside in the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism under Hurst’s leadership.

Gov. Hutchinson called this a “game changer” and a “landmark day” for the state.

The governor says the state has also entered into a state memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service to allow the Division of State Parks to offer expanded recreational opportunities at Camp Ouachita and Lake Sylvia.

The state is now looking for someone to lead the office and hold the title of outdoor director of Arkansas.

Hurst says while the state lost money in 2020 due to the pandemic, revenue is now up and tourism is returning strong. The governor’s office says outdoor recreation in the state brings in almost $10 billion per year, supports 96,000 jobs worth $2.5 billion, and generates nearly $700 million in local and state sales tax.

Watch the full news conference below.

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