Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon received the 2015 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Awards at a ceremony in Jefferson City, Mo., today (Jan. 28).
Recreation leaders from the private and public sectors joined the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) and the Coleman Co. as Nixon received the recreation community’s most prestigious award. Nixon shares the 2015 award with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who was recognized in Cheyenne Dec. 9, according to the ARC’s announcement.
ARC has presented this award since 1989 to an individual whose personal efforts have contributed substantially to enhancing outdoor experiences in America. The award was established in memory of Sheldon Coleman (1901-1988), longtime chairman of the Coleman Co. and a visionary champion of outdoor recreation and conservation. Winners are selected by recreation and conservation leaders from both the private and public sectors.
The 2015 award is unusual in two ways. Only once before has a governor received this national recognition and only once before has the award gone to more than one individual.
“The selection panel for the award had a very rich field of candidates,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall. “Many Members of Congress, cabinet members and others were deservedly nominated. But reports on the efforts of Gov. Nixon and Gov. Mead were compelling, showing their passion and vision and their commitment to expanding the enjoyment of outdoor recreation’s benefits while enlisting many partners in their efforts.”
Nixon championed recreation issues even before becoming the leader of the Show-Me State in 2009, including high-visibility efforts which saved a railroad bridge across the Missouri River that was crucial to preserving the famed Katy Trail State Park. As governor, he has made state parks, trails and waterways a high priority.
He launched the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge, inviting Missourians to join him in walking at least 100 miles on Missouri’s trails in 2013, and expanded this effort to challenge the state’s residents to paddle at least 100 miles on Missouri’s waters in 2014. He and his wife Georganne met both challenges and shared their adventures on a popular website.
Nixon created one of the nation’s most active summer employment programs for disadvantaged and minority youths. Missouri’s State Parks Youth Corps offers 300-hour internships for people between the ages 17 and 24. Participants gain valuable work experience to prepare for tomorrow’s careers while enjoying the beauty and grandeur of the state’s parks.
Nixon has appeared in numerous public-service announcements highlighting outdoors opportunities across Missouri and the benefits of time outdoors to individuals, families and friends. In the fall of 2014, he hosted a successful Governor’s Conference on Natural Resources which highlighted partnerships and innovative thinking to sustain the state’s legacy of conservation, stewardship and active connections with the outdoors.
Nixon hosted one of the largest and most successful events of Great Outdoors Month 2015, the Capitol Campout and Outdoors Day at, and adjacent to, Missouri’s state capitol in June.
Nixon recently announced plans to improve and expand Missouri’s state parks, including a major new state park in Shannon County, and to build toward a Missouri voter reaffirmation of a unique earmarking of a portion of state sales tax revenues to outdoors programs. Nixon has also worked through the National Governors Association and the Southern Governors’ Association, which he chairs, to promote enjoyment of the great outdoors nationally.
“The recreation community is indebted to Gov. Nixon. He champions the role recreation plays in healthy lifestyles and sustainable, vibrant local economies,” Crandall said. “He actively supports new and exciting efforts to help connect all Missourians with their public lands and waters. Govs. Mead and Nixon demonstrate that recreation enjoys the support of the nation’s leaders from both political parties and in all regions.”
As part of the award ceremony, national and local recreation leaders participated in a state dinner in the governor’s mansion where Nixon underscored his commitment to parks and recreation issues in the state and to working together with Wyoming Gov. Mead to enlist governors across the nation to be champions of healthy, active outdoor fun.
The 2015 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award is an iconic, gold-plated camping lantern specially prepared and mounted by the Coleman Co.
Nixon is the first recipient from the state of Missouri. Past recipients include President George H.W. Bush (1990), National Geographic Society Chairman Gil Grosvenor (1994), U.S. Sens. John Breaux (1991), Malcolm Wallop (1995), Frank Murkowski (1997), John Chafee (1998) and Lamar Alexander (2013), U.S. Reps. Jim Oberstar (1996), Ralph Regula (2000) and Sam Farr (2014), Transportation Secretaries Norman Mineta (2003) and Rodney Slater (1999), Secretaries of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne (2008) and Ken Salazar (2011) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director John Turner (1992).