LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a new state office Monday designed to support outdoor recreation efforts in Arkansas.

The new Office of Outdoor Recreation will exist under Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (ADPHT) and will be focused on developing new opportunities to showcase the state’s wide variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, trail activities and cycling.

“The Office of Outdoor Recreation provides critically needed support as we look to expand our recreational opportunities in Arkansas and contribute to the state’s tourism value,” Hutchinson said. “These new outdoor recreation offerings illustrate the many opportunities at hand.”

The governor’s office reports the new program will collect and analyze data to develop metrics that show how outdoor recreation is impacting the Arkansas economy in order to make future plans for developing new recreational opportunities.

Two of those new opportunities were announced during the news conference Monday. ADPHT officials said they had purchased Blue Mountain, a move they said would protect drinking water from the Little Maumelle River that runs through the area and add to a 12,000-acre conservation and recreation corridor.

The ADPHT also announced a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to begin working on a historic property lease that would see Arkansas State Parks manage the Lake Sylvia Recreation Area, as well as Camp Ouachita.

The governor was joined by Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and Congressman French Hill, as he announced the new program.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has made clear, it’s that people need the freedom of the outdoors for their health, quality of life and peace of mind, and it helps attract businesses and families to create thriving, livable communities,” Hurst said. “I am looking forward to working with this team to enhance the state’s economy and offerings for the public.”