Gov. Jay Nixon was recognized last week for his commitment to conservation and the outdoors as the recipient of the 2015 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), the outdoor recreation community’s most prestigious award.

In presenting the award, ARC recognized the Governor’s successful efforts throughout his career to enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation. Since taking office in 2009, Gov. Nixon has made increasing access to state parks for Missouri families a top priority. Under the Governor’s leadership, Missouri has also been named the best camping state, the best trails state and its state parks have consistently ranked among the best in the nation.

“Here in Missouri, getting outdoors is a time-honored tradition and an increasingly important driver of tourism and job growth in communities across our state,” Gov. Nixon said. “That’s why giving Missouri families, and especially kids, more ways to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature has been one of my top priorities as Governor. Over the past seven years, we have expanded the Katy Trail, added to our nationally recognized system of free state parks and put thousands of young people to work in our State Park Youth Corps. Missourians share a true passion for the outdoors, and I’m honored to accept this award on their behalf.”

Gov. Nixon was an early supporter of the Katy Trail, the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project, and has extended the trial to both the east and west as Governor. He recently announced that a 47.5 mile extension of the trail on the western side of the state is on pace to be complete by the end of 2016.

Making it a goal to reverse a 10-year decline in parks attendance, Gov. Nixon has also expanded and improved Missouri’s nationally recognized state park system, with new state parks under development in Jefferson and Shannon counties. In 2015, Missouri State Parks announced record attendance with more than 18.5 million guests, representing a nearly 25 percent increase since 2008.

Since fiscal year 2009, the state has invested $69 million in facility upgrades in the state park system. An additional $10 million in investments in improvements to state parks and historic sites throughout Missouri will be made through a strategic bond issuance, made possible by the state’s strong fiscal discipline.

In 2010, Gov. Nixon created the State Parks Youth Corps (SPYC), a nationally recognized jobs initiative to enhance Missouri’s state parks and historical sites, in cooperation with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development. Since its inception, more than 3,500 young people have participated.

Launched in 2013 to celebrate Missouri being named the “Best Trails State” in America, the Governor’s 100 Missouri Miles Challenge encourages Missourians to complete 100 miles of outdoor physical activity in one year. Over the last two years, more than 25,000 participants have logged over 4.4 million miles, including 456 miles by the Governor and 384 miles by the First Lady, in 2015 alone.

About the Coleman Award

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 Company and a champion of outdoor recreation and conservation. Winners are selected by recreation and conservation leaders from both the private and public sectors. This year’s award was given jointly to Governor Nixon and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

Past recipients of the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award include President George H.W. Bush (1990), National Geographic Society Chairman Gil Grosvenor (1994), U.S. Senators John Breaux (1991), Frank Murkowski (1997), John Chafee (1998) and Lamar Alexander, U.S. Representatives Jim Oberstar (1996) and Ralph Regula (2000), Transportation Secretaries Norman Mineta (2003) and Rodney Slater (1999) and Secretaries of the Interior Ken Salazar (2011) and Dirk Kempthorne (2008).