Foundation created to boost Arkansas parks and recreation

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 311 views 

The largest natural spring in Arkansas fuels the Spring River. It starts at Mammoth Spring State Park and ends in the Black River about 57 miles away. (photo courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism)

A new nonprofit organization aimed at enhancing parks and recreational opportunities in Arkansas was announced Tuesday (Nov. 14).

Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation is a 501(c)(3) entity organized to “support, protect, enhance and add value” to recreational destinations across the state.

Little Rock attorney John Gill is founding board chairman of the newly created organization, according to a news release.

“Until now, there hasn’t been an effective way to channel private resources into our parks for worthy projects,” Gill said in the release. “Arkansas is blessed with abundant beautiful outdoor places to recharge the spirit and enjoy nature, including our 52 state parks, which provide quality of life for residents and attract visitors to our state.”

Suzanne Grobmyer, formerly director of major gifts for the CHI St. Vincent Foundation in Little rock, will serve as executive director. Gill says Grobmyer’s past experience with nonprofits and extensive network will help the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation create a bright future.

“Our goal is to accelerate progress towards becoming a world-renowned destination for outstanding outdoor recreation,” Grobmyer said. “We intend to capitalize on the potential offered by our state’s natural attractions with the help of others who see the importance of parks and recreation for our people and our economy.”

The Walton Family Foundation in Bentonville has provided a three-year, $310,000 grant for initial support for the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation. Funds will be earmarked for new infrastructure projects, upgrades to existing facilities and maintaining quality outdoor offerings, according to the release. An ongoing fundraising campaign will soon be launched.

“As Northwest Arkansas becomes one of the most desirable places to the live in the U.S., natural assets such as hiking and mountain biking trails are a key part of this narrative,” Walton Family Foundation board member Steuart Walton said in the release. “We know parks across the state will also enjoy long-term benefits from the establishment of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, nearly 65% of Arkansas residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. In total, the state’s outdoor industry accounts for $9.7 billion in consumer spending annually, 96,000 direct jobs and $2.5 billion in wages and salaries.

The Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation’s trustees include Gill, Bryan Day of Little Rock, Ed Nicholson of Prairie Grove, Jane Rogers of Little Rock, Jim Shamburger of Hot Springs, and Craig Soos of Rogers

More information about the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation can be found at this link.