Celebrating innovation within the industry, America Outdoors presented three unique industry awards this Tuesday at the annual Conference and Outfitter Expo.
The THRIVE award for Website Excellence was presented to OARS, one of the most respected river outfitters in the world, for their campaign “hidden canyons.” OARS President Tyler Wendt, Marketing Manager Steve Markle and Bruce Lavoie accepted the award.
The THRIVE award for Social Media Presence was presented Northwest Rafting Company, providers of multi-day river trips from the state of Oregon to the country of Bhutan. As the nominator noted, owner Zach Collier of “simply does it better than the rest of us, probably because of his passion for community and the sport.”
Industry Achievement Award
The George & Pamela Wendt Industry Achievement Award is bestowed upon individuals or organizations that have shown exceptional innovation, achievement, dedication and commitment to the field of outdoor recreation. The award winner for 2020 is Walter “Lee” Baihly, founder of River and Trail Outfitters. The award was presented by America Outdoors Board of Directors President, Brian Campbell.
The award was accepted by John Gonano, Lee’s son-in-law, at the America Outdoors Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on December 10, 2019. Lee Baihly’s life ended tragically after being struck by a vehicle in November of this year.
Remembering Lee Baihly
In 1972, Walter "Lee" Baihly decided to ditch the office job with the Peace Corps and trade in the suit and tie for a PFD. He had just purchased a starter home along the Potomac river near Harpers Ferry, WV with his wife, Eunsook and the rest is history. River and Trail Outfitters started as a small canoe and bike livery on the weekends and grew to a flourishing adventure sports center, employing hundreds of young people (and some just young at heart). He was particularly proud of the many weddings that came as a result of staff finding a common love for the river and for each other. He bragged that his divorce rate was much better than the national average!
Lee Baihly was a true pioneer of the outfitting industry. River and Trail is the oldest outfitter in the area and his leadership set the standard for safety and cooperation in the region. He was a long-time member of America Outdoors Association, Professional Paddlesports Association and a founding member of the Washington Co. (MD) Convention and Visitors Bureau. His leadership helped to open the North Branch and Savage rivers to commercial white water. While his tragic death has left a void in our hearts and the industry, Lee's vision of "making memories that last a lifetime" will live on and be carried out by all those who loved and admired him.
America Outdoors thanks these winners for their commitment to excellence in the outdoor industry.