Arkansas now has an Office of Outdoor Recreation, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday during his regular weekly news conference at the State Capitol.

Joined by Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst and U.S. Rep. French Hill, the governor said the new office will operate within Hurst’s department and “coordinate [the] stewardship, investment and marketing of Arkansas’ outdoors.”

As part of the new office, the governor also announced that he will appoint up to 10 people to serve on the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board. Board members will guide the Office of Outdoor Recreation in its work, the governor said, adding that the new office and board positions will be supported by existing revenue and staffing.

In her comments, Hurst said that Arkansas now joins 15 other states in making an outdoor recreation office and said her department will begin work on identifying and hiring a Director of Outdoor Recreation.

In other state outdoor recreation news, the governor announced that the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission has purchased the 459-acre Blue Mountain Natural Area in Pulaski County. The purchase of Blue Mountain, the final of three mountains the state now owns in the Maumelle Pinnacles chain that includes Pinnacle Mountain and Rattlesnake Ridge, with state, federal and private funding now creates a 12,000-acre conservation and recreation area in Central Arkansas, per a statement issued to the Log Cabin after Monday’s news conference.

Additionally, the governor said the state has signed an agreement with the U.S. Forestry Service to find ways to allow Arkansas State Parks to offer expanded recreational opportunities at Camp Ouachita and Lake Sylvia in Perryville.

Speaking about his series of announcements, the governor said the state values outdoor recreation for its economic and social impact.

“Arkansas is a national treasure when it comes to outdoor recreation,” Hutchinson said.

Hurst agreed with the governor and touted the increased public access that will come with Monday’s announcements.

“Blue Mountain and Lake Sylvia represent partnerships that will result in increased access for the public, sound conservation and increased economic activity for Arkansas long-term,” Hurst said.

Following Monday’s news conference, the governor headed to Washington, D.C. to prepare to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine on Tuesday.

Staff Writer Kolton Rutherford can be reached at krutherford@thecabin.net.

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