(From media release)
A new nonprofit organization will provide an innovative approach for enhancing parks and recreational opportunities in Arkansas.
Little Rock attorney John Gill is the founding board chairman of the newly created organization.
“Until now, there hasn’t been an effective way to channel private resources into our parks for worthy projects,” said Gill. Arkansas is blessed with abundant beautiful outdoor places to recharge the spirit and enjoy nature, including our 52 state parks, which provide quality of life for residents and attract visitors to our state.”
Gill also announced that Suzanne Grobmyer, formerly Director of Major Gifts for the CHI St. Vincent Foundation, will serve as executive director. He says her vast experience with nonprofits and extensive network will help the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation create a bright future.
“Our goal is to accelerate progress towards becoming a world-renowned destination for outstanding outdoor recreation, ” Grobmyer said. “We intend to capitalize on the potential offered by our state’s natural attractions with the help of others who see the importance of parks and recreation for our people and our economy.”
The Walton Family Foundation, which invests in projects that promote cultural, educational and economic opportunities throughout Arkansas, provided a three-year $310,000 grant for initial support for the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation. Funds will be earmarked for new infrastructure projects, upgrades to existing facilities and maintaining quality outdoor offerings. An ongoing fundraising campaign will soon be launched.
“As Northwest Arkansas becomes one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S., natural assets such as hiking and mountain biking trails are a key part of this narrative,” said Steuart Walton, Walton Family Foundation board member. “We know parks across the state will also enjoy long-term benefits from the establishment of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation.”
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, nearly 65 percent of Arkansas residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. In total, the state’s outdoor industry accounts for $9.7 billion in consumer spending annually, 96,000 direct jobs and $2.5 billion in wages and salaries.
The Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation’s trustees include Gill, Bryan Day of Little Rock, Ed Nicholson of Prairie Grove, Jane Rogers of Little Rock, Jim Shamburger of Hot Springs, and Craig Soos of Rogers.
For more information about the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, log on to www.arparksfoundation.org. Donations to the foundation can also be made at this website.
Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation Mission Statement:
The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Arkansas is organized to support, protect, enhance, and add value to places that provide exceptional recreation experience and build on the Civilian Conservation Corps’ legacy of sustaining our state’s natural resources by providing a conduit and opportunity for giving back and expediting development for today’s generation.
About our Board Members
Mr. Day is Executive Director of the Little Rock Port Authority and is engaged in economic development, as well as building and strengthening communities. He started his career in government 30 years ago in the Arkansas State Parks system and has served as Director of Little Rock Parks and Recreation and as Assistant City Manager. He is a member of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Transportation Advisory Council, the Arkansas Oklahoma Port Operators Association, and the Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals Association. Bryan is also an avid hiker living in Little Rock.
John Gill, Chairman
Mr. Gill is a senior member of the Little Rock law firm Gill Ragon Owen, P.A., with extensive practice in business, government, and nonprofit law. He is past president of the Arkansas Bar Association and past Chairman of the Arkansas History Commission. He has written and lectured extensively on Arkansas history. He enjoys photographing and exploring Arkansas and led the 2002 expedition that crossed the baseline of the Louisiana Purchase. His work in historic preservation includes rebuilding the Pulaski County Courthouse clock tower and restoring historic 1842 Curran Hall in Little Rock.
Suzanne Grobmyer, Executive Director
Ms. Grobmyer is responsible for the strategy, communications, operations and philanthropic efforts of the Foundation. Prior to her work with the Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation, she was the Director of Major Gifts for CHI St. Vincent Foundation. She has worked in public affairs for various groups, state leaders and issue campaigns throughout Arkansas. She currently serves as Chairman of the Leadership Greater Little Rock Advisory Board.
Ed Nicholson, Treasurer
Mr. Nicholson retired as Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility after a 21-year career in public relations and communications with Tyson Foods, Inc. He established Tyson’s primary philanthropic focus in hunger relief, managing partnerships with regional and national nonprofit organizations. He is currently Chair of Elevate Performance, Inc., a Fayetteville-based company that facilitates senior executive and emerging leader peer forums. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Urban League of Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. He is an avid gardener, bicyclist and professional guitarist.
Jane Rogers, Secretary
Ms. Rogers is a former Trustee of the University of Arkansas and past President of the National Chi Omega Foundation. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Simmons National Bank (formerly Delta Bank and Trust). She has been a community volunteer in Little Rock for decades and has been active in Arkansas outdoors with her husband, Jay, who is the owner of Sports Stop, Inc., a sporting goods store specializing in athletic wear and equipment. Ms. Rogers is also a sustaining member of the Junior League of Little Rock and a member of the Garden Club of Little Rock.
Mr. Shamburger was raised in the Arkansas hospitality industry and worked as a child in motels owned and operated by his parents. He has more than four decades of motel/hotel experience in properties all over Arkansas. He is an industry leader, managing/owning 11 hotels across the state. He was designated as the Arkansas Tourism Person of the Year in 2009. He is also an outdoorsman with a passion for all things Arkansas.
Mr. Soos directs family interests in real estate and local businesses in Northwest Arkansas including Scout Retail Ventures, Speak Retail Group, TAXA Outdoors, and Good Eats Food Company, which are all focused on health and retail services. His passion for community development includes service on the Boards of Directors of Downtown Bentonville, Inc. and Trike Theater for youth. His mountain biking skills have led him to explore the outdoors in all regions of Arkansas. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the outdoors with his family and friends, dreaming up adventures and expanding trail systems.
You can here an interview that Executive Director, Suzanne Grobmeyer did with KUAF on the KUAF web site.