Katherine Andrews was named last week as the new state director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, a title she will assume at the end of the month.
The new division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism is tasked with leading the state’s efforts to grow the outdoor recreation economy, work with partners toward improved health outcomes, and promote awareness of the complete range of recreational experiences the state has to offer.
Andrews said there are approximately 10 other states that have similar offices and Arkansas is the second southern state – behind North Carolina – to create one.
“These offices are created across the country to maximize the opportunities that we have in our states with outdoor recreation and connecting the dots with outdoor companies and the different economic development opportunities that can exist between these two,” she said.
Andrews contends there is plenty of homework to be done before launching new initiatives. She wants to analyze many of the existing resources the state already offers through the public and private sectors. She also plans to see how other states have deployed similar efforts.
“I think the first six months, maybe even a year will be a lot of understanding the ecosystem, the layout of the state, engaging with the board and finding out their thoughts and ideas about how this office should develop and then moving forward in a central voice,” Andrews said. “I think another great thing that I’m planning to do is meet with those states that have those offices and find out what they’ve been doing, what works really well, what we can emulate as a state. I think once we get that layout of the land and figure out what we have, then we can find out what gaps are there. Then from there, figure out let’s tackle those gaps, let’s see what we need to do, let’s recruit some companies and help foster those companies.”
Andrews, who has a background in economic development and entrepreneurship, said there have to be some foundations in place to ensure successful recruitment and expansion of businesses to boost the state’s outdoor recreation economy.
“It’s full circle… You have to have a healthy infrastructure in order to have great recreational opportunities. So we’ll be working with groups like Game & Fish, the Nature Conservancy, and Audubon Arkansas,” she said.
You can watch Andrews’ full interview in the video below.