EDITOR’S NOTE: Industry icon Derrick Crandall sent the following note Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 5) to a host of friends and allies on his last day as president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). Described by USA Today as an “outdoor guru,” Crandall was best known in the RV industry for his visible role in heading up the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) — ORR’s predecessor — an organization with close ties to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). But as he marked his departure from ORR to make way for successor Jessica Wahl, a seasoned exec in the political corridors of Washingto, D.C., Crandall was quick to point out that he’s not actually retiring, but will continue – among other things — to pursue outdoor-related interests involving the National Park Hospitality Association, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee and the Coalition for Recreational Trails.

Derrick Crandall with President Bush

Derrick Crandall (L) with President George H. W. Bush

Today is a very exciting day for me.  Forty years ago, on a wintry February day, a group of association and corporate leaders gathered in Washington to apply the lessons learned from two rounds of policy battles pitted against those who truly believed that recreation was a luxury – nonessential during energy crunches. We formed the American Recreation Coalition. In 1981, I segued from the ranks of volunteer organizers to begin ARC as a staffed organization. The flood of subsequent activities – and of wonderful successes and amazing people – bring a smile to my face this morning.  

I’ve enjoyed the thrill of service on national commissions and their intense discussions, leading to successes like the National Scenic Byways Program, like fee retention at federal sites, like greenways and national service in the outdoors. I cherish days spent with Clint Eastwood filming ‘Take Pride in America’ PSAs and the intensity of chairing the Working Group on the Environment for George Herbert Walker Bush’s campaign for the Presidency. I smile when I think of success in redirecting recreational boating fuels into a then-stagnant Dingell-Johnson program in 1984 – and following that success up with capturing the federal gas tax of lawnmowers and chainsaws and more for that same fund to boost wetlands mitigation efforts. 

I think of nearly 30,000 trail projects across the nation – and new harmony among trail interests – arising from the use of OHV and snowmobile federal gas tax for the Recreational Trails Program. I recall fun – yes, fun – enjoyed by Vice Presidents and Presidents and Cabinet members and Members of Congress and Governors at ARC-hosted special events in national parks and national forests, and that same fun experienced by thousands of inner-city kids enjoying WOW-Wonderful Outdoor World campouts, thanks to Disney, Coleman and our public sector partners. I think of the inspirational people I have worked with – people with dreams and the skills and energy to make dreams come true. People like Dick Bass of Snowbird, Dick Nunis of Walt Disney Attractions, Sheldon Coleman of The Coleman Company, Jim Oberstar and John Breaux and Malcolm Wallop and Lamar Alexander from the Congress and Rodney Slater, Gale Norton, Dan Glickman, Dirk Kempthorne and Ryan Zinke in key Executive Branch posts.

The last two years have been exciting as we morphed ARC into an exciting new brand with the strong support of the nation’s outdoor recreation trade association. Thank you! The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable has established itself through multiple meetings and events with the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce and active roles in successes ranging from the new www.recreation.gov to the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) to major new communications efforts. I’ve appreciated the chance to work closely with Thom Dammrich and Frank Hugelmeyer on this important journey – even through some turbulent times!

Today, I retire as president from ARC’s successor, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and turn its leadership over to Jessica Wahl. She is a lucky person. I look forward to aiding her efforts and to focusing my own energies on a handful of important and timely causes. I will put much of my time into the National Park Hospitality Association, representing companies who are key to making great visits to great places – whose legacy of investments in park infrastructure and world-class service have gone underappreciated for too long. I will aid the band of more than twenty organizations constituting the Great Outdoors Month Council and efforts which unite everyone around a celebration of the outdoors each June. I will continue to contribute to the efforts of Interior’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee. And through my new venture, Outdoor Solutions USA, I will be identifying and aiding leaders in the public and private sectors who are committed to using the outdoors to unite all Americans and put more fun in our lives.  Boy, do we need that today!

After today, for Outdoor Recreation Roundtable issues reach out to Jessica Wahl at [email protected] and 202-682-9530. For National Park Hospitality Association, ORAC and Great Outdoors Month matters, contact me at [email protected] and 703-624-0495. And for Outdoor Solutions USA … stay tuned as our website launches in March and we focus on today’s and tomorrow’s champions of the outdoors.

You will have more competition for getting my attention, though. Also planned for the next several years are: more sunrises from our special place, Brigadune on North Carolina’s Outdoor Banks. More trips to our favorite Virginia wineries and driving for pleasure aboard my Corvette (BYWAYZ). More fun with my very special family including grandkids Avery, Tyler, Robbie, Emma and Will.

See you outdoors soon – and in future meetings!