A Message from Secretary Mike Mills
Although I have only been in my new role for just over two weeks, it has been the honor of my career to serve as Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. What makes the job so meaningful is the significant progress we’re already making to showcase the best of The Natural State. Nowhere was this more evident than during a ceremony yesterday when Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order establishing The Natural State Initiative and the accompanying Natural State Initiative Advisory Council. As it pertains to our department, I wanted to ensure that you are aware of the Initiative and the work we will do to collaborate.
I’m looking forward to working with the newly created Council, which will provide advice to the Governor regarding the promotion of outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy in Arkansas. To serve as a member on the Council, an individual must have a demonstrated interest in outdoor recreation in Arkansas and a position in state government, on a public commission, within a nonprofit organization or in the private sector. This Council will help facilitate a structured approach to ADPHT collaborations with the Arkansas Department of Commerce, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and other entities.
One thing I know for sure about these new efforts is that everyone involved truly loves Arkansas. We have all recognized for years that our state is a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts from across the globe. But we’re no longer keeping it a secret. Now is the time to unleash The Natural State’s potential to be a true leader in the outdoor recreation economy.
With support from the highest levels, I have no doubt that Arkansas is soon to experience unparalleled economic growth in the tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. I can’t wait to work with the new administration and dedicated partners from across the state who care so deeply about this place we call home.
Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
EXECUTIVE ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE NATURAL STATE INITIATIVE
WHEREAS: Arkansas, the Natural State, is home to some of the most beautiful natural resources in the world. Arkansas’ scenic rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, caves, creeks, roadways, airstrips, and trails offer limitless opportunities for outdoor adventure;
WHEREAS: Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine and a gateway to improved quality of life and positive health outcomes for all Arkansans;
WHEREAS: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at the United States Department of Commerce estimated that outdoor recreation generates $862 billion annually in economic output. In Arkansas, the outdoor economy grew by almost twenty-three percent (23%) in the last year;
WHEREAS: Arkansas must seize this momentum and further establish the Natural State as a leader in the outdoor economy and a destination for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world; and
WHEREAS: The Governor seeks to establish the Natural State Initiative.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, acting under the authority vested in me as the Governor of the State of Arkansas, do hereby order the following:
1. There is hereby created the Natural State Initiative (the “Initiative”) and the Natural State Initiative Advisory Council (“Advisory Council”), which shall provide advice to the Governor regarding the promotion of outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy in Arkansas.
2. The Governor hereby appoints Bryan Sanders, the First Gentleman of Arkansas, to serve as chairman of the Advisory Council on a volunteer basis with no compensation for his duties.
3. The Governor shall appoint the members to the Advisory Council, each of which shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor and on a volunteer basis.
a) To serve as a member on the Advisory Council, an individual must have an interest in outdoor recreation in Arkansas due to his or her position in state government, on public commissions, within non-profit organizations, or in the private sector.
4. The Advisory Council shall undertake the following responsibilities in making its recommendations on how the Governor may best advance outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy in Arkansas:
a) Coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Commerce, to promote both Arkansas’ growing outdoor recreation industry and the economic impact of outdoor infrastructure investment; to recruit new outdoor recreation businesses to Arkansas, to expand existing outdoor recreation businesses, and to foster entrepreneurial growth by using economic development incentives, site selection services, funding, and training resources within the Arkansas Economic Development Commission; and to explore the development of outdoor recreation opportunity zones near state parks.
b) Coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism in both establishing a plan to maintain Arkansas’ world-class trail systems at state parks and connecting those trails to larger regional trail systems; to develop an innovative, data-driven marketing strategy to promote tourism and outdoor recreation in Arkansas; to elevate the Office of Outdoor Recreation’s efforts to grow the outdoor recreation economy; and to create a framework for attracting partners to improve programming and experiences in state parks.
c) Coordinating with the Governor’s team on workforce development to support efforts in building the outdoor recreation workforce in Arkansas, thereby generating a pipeline of skilled workers and entrepreneurs to grow Arkansas’ outdoor economy.
d) Coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and the Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services to develop innovative food, beverage, and vendor services to enhance outdoor recreation in Arkansas.
e) Conducting a review of the tax and regulatory environment, including internal agency and department policies, and explore opportunities to grow the outdoor economy and advance the Initiative’s objectives.
5. The Advisory Council shall present to the Governor an annual written report summarizing its progress on the duties as set forth herein as well as stating its recommendations and advice for how the Governor may advance outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy in Arkansas.
This Executive Order shall become effective upon its signing and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive orders.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and cause the Great Seal of the State of Arkansas to be affixed this 24th day of January, in the year of our Lord 2023.
About Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas State Parks is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Arkansas state parks and museums cover 55,006 acres of forest, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation facilities, and unique historic and cultural resources. Established in 1923, Arkansas State Parks preserve special places for future generations, provide quality recreation and education opportunities, enhance the state’s economy through tourism and provide leadership in resource conservation. Connect with ASP on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and visit ArkansasStateParks.com and ArkansasStateParks.com/media to learn more.