Sen. Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will receive the 2013 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award, the recreation community’s most prestigious award, at a special Great Outdoors Week celebration on Wednesday (June 5).

The award was created in 1989 to honor the lifelong efforts of Sheldon Coleman, whose engineering, marketing and advocacy talents made coolers, lanterns and tents bearing his name ubiquitous on America’s public lands, according to a news release.

Alexander chaired the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors (PCAO) on which Coleman served, making this year’s honor especially noteworthy.

The award honors individuals whose personal efforts have contributed substantially to enhancing outdoor experiences across America. National recreation community leaders chose Sen. Alexander to be this year’s winner.

Alexander is the only Tennessean popularly elected both governor and U.S. senator. He has been U.S. secretary of education and president of the University of Tennessee. He chaired the National Governors Association and, with his wife Honey, founded Corporate Child Care Inc., which has evolved into the world’s largest provider of worksite daycare. As governor, Lamar Alexander focused on sustainable economic growth, leading Tennessee to become the third largest auto producer while protecting open space and improving water quality.

“Sen. Alexander led PCAO’s articulation of a strategy for recreation at a critical time – when political fractiousness over natural resource matters and tight federal and state budgets raised the threat of public recreation program cutbacks. PCAO’s advocacy of greenways and scenic byways, of recreation as a priority for federal land-managing agencies previously commodity-focused, of expanded volunteerism and a new emphasis on outdoor ethics, of strategies for paying for federal recreation services and of a new era of private/public partnerships inspired action in Washington and across the nation,” according to Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), which hosts the award presentation.

The senator has also been a champion of National Park Service Centennial efforts, working to equip NPS to be relevant and effective in its second century. He keynoted the first-ever America’s Summit on National Parks and has spoken out about the health challenges facing Americans – and especially youth – because of obesity and lessened physical activity, and the role of recreation as a cost-effective remedy.

“The recreation community applauds the Senator’s leadership in securing additional funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and championing another national recreation policy review. He helped lead the Outdoor Resources Review Group, an independent blue ribbon panel operating from 2008 to 2009. His efforts helped catalyze President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative,” Crandall added. “As they enjoy time in the Great Outdoors, millions of Americans and international visitors benefit from Lamar Alexander’s vision and energies.”

The 2013 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award is an original work titled Crow Dance by Darrell Norman, a Blackfeet artist in Montana. Past award recipients include former Interior Secretaries Ken Salazar and Dirk Kempthorne, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, former President George H. W. Bush, National Geographic Society Chairman Gil Grosvenor, then-U.S. Sens.  John Breaux, Frank Murkowski and John Chafee, then-U.S. Reps. Jim Oberstar and Ralph Regula and U.S. Representative Tom Petri, and former Transportation Secretaries Norman Mineta and Rodney Slater.