January 27, 2023

Renew Alabama recently formed the Council on Outdoor Recreation to advise the Board on strategies to achieve three key goals: growing Alabama’s outdoor recreation industry, increasing the state’s attractiveness to a skilled workforce, and generating significant returns for rural and urban communities through enjoyment of current and future Alabamaers.

The Council is also supported by the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, which is composed of 19 stakeholders representing diverse and broad perspectives from different regions of the state and outdoor recreation areas. The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, meeting for the first time on Wednesday, November 30, will make recommendations for using Alabama’s recreational facilities as innovative tools for economic development.

“The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, composed of some of our state’s strongest outdoor recreation experts, brings together centuries of combined knowledge in nature to provide strategic recommendations for applying outdoor recreation to improve the quality of life of Alabamians and support economic… Rural development and urban communities,” said Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Chair of the Council on Outdoor Recreation. “We are very pleased to welcome these advisory members who will ensure all regions of the state and outdoor recreation sectors are seated around the same table as we develop these recommendations.”

In 2021, Innovate Alabama merged with Alabama native Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to conduct extensive research to foster a resilient, inclusive economy and move Alabama forward. This research, which culminated in a final reporthighlighted the opportunity to use Alabama’s natural resources to help innovators put down roots here, and so the Council on Outdoor Recreation was formed.

“A thriving business ecosystem is holistic. It takes into account the interests, hobbies and well-being of entrepreneurs and their families. People are building businesses in Alabama in part because of our outdoor recreation opportunities and scenic diversity. Our natural resources — a real asset that helps us continue to attract and retain top talent — sets us apart from other innovation-driven nations,” said Kellie Clark, AppThink CEO and Roundtable member. “As an outdoor enthusiast and advocate for innovation, I’m proud to work alongside other subject matter experts, all focused on creating inclusive, thoughtful solutions through the lens of outdoor recreation that will enrich our innovation ecosystem.”

Innovate Alabama leverages the entire state’s outdoor assets, such as local and state parks, landscape diversity and other natural resources, to showcase and nurture Alabama’s unique offerings. Continued investment in these assets that make Alabama unique will encourage entrepreneurs to put down roots here, whether they be native talent or out-of-state innovators.

“We’re seeing great success balancing innovation with our outdoor recreation efforts,” said John Kvach, Executive Director of the Singing River Trail and Roundtable member. “Thanks to Alabama’s unique outdoor landscape and outdoor recreation facilities, we have the potential to strengthen regional ties between rural and urban communities to create a thriving statewide innovation ecosystem.”

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Members of the Council on Outdoor Recreation and the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable include:

Advice on outdoor recreation

  • Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources of Alabama (Council Chair)
  • Bill Poole, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Innovate Alabama
  • Peter Inge, Private Sector Representative, CFO, NXTsoft
  • Darrell Ezell, Private Sector Representative, Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Hudson Alpha

Advice round table on outdoor recreation

  • Amy Rauworth, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Lakeshore Foundation
  • Senator Andrew Jones, Alabama State Senate, District 10
  • Chris Oberholster, Director of Development, Alabama Audubon
  • Emile Hughes, co-founder of Ride Resorts
  • Fred Couch, Jr., Founder, Alabama Scenic River Trails
  • Graham Sisson, Chairman of the Alabama Trails Commission
  • Mayor Jack Tibbs, City of Eufaula
  • John Kvach, Executive Director, Singing River Trail
  • Kellie Clark, CEO, AppThink
  • Kruis Retherford, President, Glasstream Powerboats
  • Rep. Kyle South, Alabama House of Representatives, District 16
  • Michael Norman, Branch Manager, REI
  • Phillip West, Coastal Resources Manager, City of Orange Beach
  • Preston Cauthen, Community Relations Manager, Alabama Power
  • Rick Oates, State Forester, Alabama Forest Service
  • Rusha Smith, Managing Director of Freshwater Land Trust
  • Themika Sims, Director, Graham Farm
  • Tim Lindblom, Dean, Jacksonville State University College of Mathematics and Science
  • Tim Wood, General Manager, Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative

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