AK – Support your park: Alaska State Parks gear goes on sale Friday

Anchorage, Alaska – The next sweatshirt you buy could help support Alaska State Parks.Earlier this year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 101, which allows the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to collect money from fees or merchandise. That means for the first time the state parks system can profit off park-themed merchandise.

Staff printed off more than 2,500 t-shirts and sweatshirts in six different logos and a variety of colors that go on sale Friday, Sept. 30.

Ben Ellis, director for the DNR Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, said Alaska joins a small handful of other states in the nation that are able to raise money through clothing profits. He said some states bring in as much as $4 million.

The Alaska State Parks system is the largest in the country with 3.3 million acres. Right now it receives its $3 million budget from the Legislature. Ellis said with uncertain financial times, that money could be cut at any time. That’s why it’s important to find other revenue sources to support the parks.

“Whether it’s through park merchandise, through our fees, through permitting process, we need to offset the amount of general fund we receive through the Legislature with the user pay, user play philosophy,” Ellis said.

Most of the designs highlight the Chugach State Park, but Ellis said there are plans to expand the clothing line to include other state parks around Alaska. All money generated goes back into the general operating fund.

Merchandise goes on sale at the Make it Alaskan Festival at the Sullivan Arena, which kicks off on Friday. Staff are also working to set up an online store too.

By Heather Hintze 7:13 PM September 27, 2016

AZ – Rebounding state parks system plans to add 100 rental cabins

PHOENIX – Arizona’s rebounding state parks system plans to more than quadruple the number of rental cabins at parks statewide, one of several major projects on the drawing board to improve and expand parks facilities less than a decade after the system struggled to keep parks open during the Great Recession.

A legislative oversight committee’s recent endorsement of the plan set the stage for Arizona State Parks to solicit proposals from private vendors for 100 additional cabins at six parks.

The plan would have the park system pay a fraction of the cabins’ up-front costs, with most of the costs paid by a vendor who would provide the cabins. The state and the vendor then would share the rental revenue .

Parks where new cabins would be located are Cattail Cove at Lake Havasu, Lost Dutchman in Apache Junction, Dead Horse Ranch in Cottonwood, Roper Lake near Sa ord, Alamo Lake north of Wenden and Buckskin Mountain near Parker.

There are now 28 cabins at four parks: Roper Lake, Alamo Lake, Dead Horse Ranch and Lyman Lake near Springerville.

THE REASONING BEYOND THE PLAN

Executive Director Sue Black said the basis for the planned additional cabins is a belief that there’s a market for them.

“Visitor service is the No. 1 thing,” she told The Associated Press. “My theory is that people want to rent them.”

Cabins are particularly useful to tourists visiting Arizona from other countries who can’t easily camp, she said.

“They don’t have all the equipment and gear to go out camping per se,” Black said. “There is the demand out there.”

Investments in park improvements pay o , she said. “We electri ed 60 sites at one of the parks and our legislators raided funding during the Great revenue doubled.”

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

The money to pay for the state’s anticipated $963,300 share of the up-front costs would come from two special funds, including one fed by taxes on boaters’ gas purchases.

The state would have the option to purchase the 100 cabins from the vendor for $450,000 per cabin after six years and then receive 100 per cent of the rental revenue.

“It’s creative nancing is what it is,” Black told the AP. “Raise revenues and re-invest … to generate more revenue. Rinse and repeat.”

The occupancy rate for the existing 28 cabins is about 52 per cent, according to legislative budget sta . Senior Fiscal Analyst Micaela Larkin told lawmakers during a Sept. 21 committee hearing that the question is whether that rate can be duplicated when there are many more cabins.

Black expressed con dence about that during the AP interview. “There is the demand out there,” she said. “I think it’s an exciting time for the parks.”

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

The oversight committee endorsed the cabins project at a meeting when lawmakers also backed a planned $6.4 million redevelopment of Cattail Cove State Park and a total of nearly $2.5 million of projects at ve other parks.

The current lineup of expansion and improvement projects stands in sharp contrast to the beginning of the current decade when during the Great Recession the parks system struggled to keep parks open, let alone add facilities or amenities.

Legislators faced with plummeting tax revenues raided the parks system’s funding, and auditors reported in 2012 that reductions or shifts of park system funding totalled $72 million over a ve-year period.

Several parks were closed, and others went to seasonal status and operations as the agency shed personnel to cut costs. The state resorted to asking local governments and volunteers to help keep some parks open.

By: Paul Davenport, The Associated Press
Posted: 09/27/2016 3:33 PM| Last Modi ed: 09/27/2016 3:40 PM

 

In this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 photo, tourists stand outside a National Park cabin on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, in Ariz. Arizona’s rebounding state parks system plans to more than quadruple the number of cabins at parks statewide, one of several projects on the drawing board to improve and expand parks facilities less than a decade after the system struggled to keep parks open as legislators raided funding during the Great Recession. (AP Photo/Matt York)

AZMY101-528_2015_002912.jpg

AL – Alabama parks see highest number of visitors in years

Weather, budget debate may have help

Alabama’s state parks, once threatened with closure due to budget cuts, are on track to have their busiest year since 2009, parks officials announced Tuesday.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources put out a call Tuesday afternoon for people to visit the parks this week, in hopes of topping the 5-million-visitor mark by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The last time that happened was seven years ago, early in the recession.

Parks officials say warm and dry weather this year gave the public more days to effectively use parks in 2016. But the parks’ heightened visibility in the 2015 budget crisis also may have played a role.

“In the years before the recession, 2007 and 2008 and into 2009, we were over the five-million mark,” said Greg Lein, director of the state park system. “I believe we will cross that mark again this week.”

Parks became a poster child for Alabama’s budget crisis in 2015, when lawmakers faced a gap of more than $200 million in the state’s General Fund. State officials initially warned of closure of most of the state’s 22 parks if lawmakers didn’t pass hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases.

Parks weren’t the only state service on the chopping block, but park fans drove a grassroots movement to keep them funded.

“We still want to make sure people are aware of threats to park funding,” said Phillip Darden, founder of Alabama State Parks Partners, an advocacy group that grew out of online protest of the proposed cuts.

By this time last year, lawmakers had patched the budget hole with a cigarette tax, and state officials expected closure of only five parks and raises in fees at the 17 that were still open. Parks officials on Tuesday said all five of the closed parks have since reopened with local money.

Lein said the park system had a delayed reaction to the Great Recession, with people still coming to state parks in 2009. Damage to Guntersville State Park in the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak hurt the overall numbers. Then lawmakers diverted some of the park system’s money — the parks are mostly paid for by fees paid by visitors — to the ailing General Fund.

“After 2011 was when things really started to fall apart for us,” Lein said.

This year, parks officials said, parks were back in part because of warm weather and in part because of the lack of a natural disaster — including ice storms. Cheaha State Park, atop the state’s highest mountain, typically takes longer than the rest of the state to thaw out from winter storms.

Attempts to reach officials at Cheaha Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful. Lein said he wasn’t sure about attendance there, but the other numbers at Cheaha look good.

“I believe they’re going to be in the black for the first time in years,” he said.

Like other parks, Cheaha raised its fees as a result of the budget crunch. The lodge at the park closed during weekdays in winter, another change that Lein said could have saved the park money.

Darden, the parks activist, said he’d be delighted if the debate over park funding did bring more people back to the natural green spaces. He said people are likely to see the parks in the news again soon. A political action committee affiliated with his group will soon buy ads in favor of Amendment 2, a statewide ballot measure that would block lawmakers from moving park money to any other purpose.

Lein said the increase in visitors should help parks with their money problems, by bringing in the fees that keep parks running.

“That’s one of our principal messages,” he said. “If you want to save the park system, use the park system.”

MS – OUR OPINION: Plenty of good news to share in region

From the dedication of a new school building to the continued improvements at Tombigbee State Park, there was plenty of good news to share last week throughout Northeast Mississippi.

Before we prepare for the week ahead, let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from last week:

  • More than 500 Toyota Mississippi team members spent their day at Tombigbee State Park on Saturday for the second year in a row to celebrate National Public Lands Day. Last year, the automaker committed to a five-year, $250,000 partnership with the state park to make improvements to the primitive and group campgrounds, restoring the amphitheater, rebuilding docks, restoring trail access and draining and removing excess sediment from the late to improve the ecosystem. On Saturday, in addition to improving the hiking trails, playgrounds and bridges, the volunteers installed Corolla Field, a new T-ball field complete with backstop, team benches and bleachers. In the past year, TM workers also have renovated cabins, installed new landscaping, built new roofs on the picnic pavilions and bath houses and built picnic tables. On top of the $250,000 commitment it made last year, Toyota Mississippi gave a $30,000 matching grant to the park to replace the lodge roof. Last September, it gave $15,000 to renovate cabin five to replace its windows, siding and roof to restore it to what it was like when it was built in the 1930s. We thank Toyota for being such a great corporate citizen in our community by giving back in so many different ways.

Those are just a few of the great things that took place in our community last week, but we know there will be plenty more to share with you next week.

America’s State Parks Group Confers Awards

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It takes vision, leadership, resources and unrelenting effort to care for our state parks,” stated Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri, who provided the keynote address at NASPD’s annual meeting Thursday at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana. “At the end of the day, it is well worth the investment,” he continued. “America’s parks and forests, wildlife and waters, historic sites and monuments, are unique assets – opportunities to improve our health, our economy, our environment and our quality of life.”

NASPD recognized the contributions of six organizations and individuals Thursday. They were:

  • Priscilla E. Geigis, the director of MassParks in the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), received the Distinguished Service Award for her long-term, sustained record of professional accomplishment in the field of parks and recreation. Ms. Geigis’ has been dedicated to efforts to get kids – and kids at heart – connected to the great outdoors, which fosters a healthy lifestyle and promotes a shared stewardship of resources. Read more >>
  • The Arkansas Naturalist Organization was recognized with a President’s Award for a state-wide organization. The organization was honored for its incredible contributions to the State Parks of Arkansas through its ongoing volunteer activities. Since its inception in 2007, this organization of approximately 400 members state-wide has worked tirelessly to keep Arkansas in its natural state. Read more >>
  • Michigan Cares for Tourism received a President’s Award for a statewide organization. The 100 percent volunteer, 100 percent give-back partnership was created by Patty Janes, PhD, a professor at Grand Valley State University, and forged between Michigan tourism organizations Travel Michigan (the Pure Michigan brand manager), Indian Trails, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Read more >>
  • The Friends of Darling State Park was recognized with a President’s Award for a local organization. The Friends of Lake Darling State Park in SE Iowa State Park formed their non-profit group of volunteers in 2001 with their mission statement “Make the Great Park of Lake Darling Extraordinary.” Beginning with small work projects at the park, such as shingling roofs, picking up litter and cleaning grills, they have increased their numbers and projects to carry out the mission of preventing the deterioration of the lake and park facilities. Read more >>
  • Martin MacDonald of Missouri received a President’s Award for his work with the Missouri state parks system. MacDonald, the director of Conservation for America’s leading outdoor retailer, Bass Pro Shops, has served as the company liaison to Missouri State Parks. His deep commitment to promoting outdoor recreation, especially to getting more children outdoors and away from electronics, has established a partnership between the Missouri park system and Bass Pro Shops that has a tremendous impact on visitors to the state. Read more >>
  • Tom Earnhardt of North Carolina received the 2016 Ney Landrum Park History Award. Earnhardt was honored for his commitment, skills and determination in becoming a primary historian of North Carolina’s state parks and the natural resources they protect. As producer, director, writer, narrator, videographer and benefactor, he developed an hour-long documentary, Saving the Best: North Carolina State Parks at 100, which coincided with the state’s 100th anniversary in 2016. Read more >>

“It is always great to recognize the amazing supporters that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

“America’s state parks and the people who visit them are the prime beneficiaries of the outstanding contributions from these organizations and individuals,” Lewis Ledford, NASPD executive director, said. “Taking just a few moments to recognize and thank them for their efforts is the least we can do when evaluating all they have done to improve the quality of life and recreational opportunities in their communities.”

The mission of the Association is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.

Read more

Martin MacDonald Receives National Award

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It is always great to recognize the amazing supporters that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

NASPD recognized the contributions of Martin MacDonald with a President’s Award. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

MacDonald, the Director of Conservation for America’s leading outdoor retailer, Bass Pro Shops, has served as the company liaison to Missouri State Parks. His deep commitment to promoting outdoor recreation, especially to getting more children outdoors and away from electronics, has established a partnership between the Missouri park system and Bass Pro Shops that has a tremendous impact on visitors to the state. His coordination with his company’s founder, John L. Morris, is especially apparent in the park system’s ability to provide our visitors with new ways to experience the Missouri outdoors.

A recent example of MacDonald’s efforts is his integral partnership with the first ever Missouri Governor’s Capitol Campout and Outdoor Days at the Capitol. These two events provided thousands of visitors opportunities to experience the thrill of kayaking, camping, target shooting and many other outdoor activities, all on the lawn of Missouri’s State Capitol. Organized by his staff in partnership with Missouri State Parks staff, the event provided visitors with the tools necessary to introduce new families to outdoor recreation, resulting in these families’ becoming interested in taking that next adventure on their own in a state park.

MacDonald also founded the Outdoor Action Committee (OAKS), which is designed to engage a broad spectrum of outdoor agency leaders to get more children outdoors. From his efforts, time and resources, the committee developed a program called the Governor’s Children in Nature Challenge. Subsequently, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and First Lady Georganne Wheeler Nixon proudly signed an Executive Order implementing the Children in Nature Challenge, calling on multiple state agencies to work together to create fun, healthy, educational ways to spend more time outdoors. This initiative is underway and will no doubt make a positive impact on the future of the state of Missouri.

In addition, Missouri State Parks recently developed the State Park Passport Program in celebration of the Centennial of its state’s park system. This program is designed to engage park visitors of all ages and encourage them to visit all 88 state parks and historic sites. When approached with a sponsorship opportunity to help make the Passport Program a success, Bass Pro Shops, with MacDonald’s help, is now the leading sponsor of the program. The first 1,000 visitors to all 88 state parks and historic sites will receive a very nice gift for the accomplishment, thanks to Martin’s being a champion for our cause.

Martin MacDonald has made an extraordinary contribution to Missouri’s state parks. His determination and deep support for the parks has enabled the agency to further its mission and obtain goals that other state agencies may only imagine. Having someone willing to stand up for outdoor recreation and outdoor heritage is a huge benefit to Missouri State Parks, and to the state as a whole.

“America’s state parks and the people who visit them are the prime beneficiaries of the outstanding contributions from these organizations and individuals, such as Martin MacDonald,” Lewis Ledford, NASPD executive director, said. “Taking just a few moments to recognize and thank them for their efforts is the least we can do when evaluating all they have done to improve the quality of life and recreational opportunities in their communities.”

The mission of the National Association of State Park Directors is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.

Friends of Lake Darling State Park Receive National Recognition

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It is always great to recognize the amazing supporters that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

NASPD recognized the contributions of The Friends of Darling State Park with a President’s Award for a local organization. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

The Friends of Lake Darling State Park in SE Iowa State Park formed their non-profit group of volunteers in 2001 with their mission statement “Make the Great Park of Lake Darling Extraordinary.” Beginning with small work projects at the park, such as shingling roofs, picking up litter and cleaning grills, they have increased their numbers and projects to carry out the mission of preventing the deterioration of the lake and park facilities.

The group’s primary fundraiser each year was collecting cans and bottles for park uses and turning these in for redemption to help pay for park improvements. This project raises about $2,000 each year.

The group has grown over the years from a great but small number wanting to help where it could in labor and provide a little extra money for projects, into a group that has changed the park in many ways with improvements that many thought impossible. The group’s efforts demonstrate what can be done when people are committed to a project, focused on goals, and determined to make it happen.

Lake Darling was developed in 1950, as Iowa’s largest manmade lake, with 302 surface acres. Legendary Iowa political cartoonist Ding Darling participated in the gate closing ceremony. Soon came campgrounds, a beach building and picnic areas, as the park became well-known as a wonderful place of recreation.

Soil runoff from surrounding land use practices reduced the lake to 267 surface acres by 2008, with undesirable fish such as the common carp which kept the lake water in a state of high turbidity, making poor water quality, poor fishing, and fewer people visiting. This decline in water quality led to the park’s being labeled a “Mud Hole,” by local newspapers. The Iowa DNR began renovation work in 2000, to help control the watershed, rebuild the dam, remove silt from the lake bottom, and restock the lake with desirable fish.

In 2006, the legislature, focusing on this lake renovation and the park, allotted $250,000 to construct a lodge. DNR staff, local legislators and the friends group studied the plan and decided to build a lodge at the beach, which involved tearing down the dilapidated beach house, putting up a small shelter and modern bathroom next to the beach for visitors, and construct ADA sidewalks to connect all the structures, at an estimated one million dollars. The DNR put $120,000 toward this effort, placing the burden for raising $600,000 in a 12-month period on the friends group. Accustomed to raising $2,000 a year from cans and bottles, they accepted the challenge and achieved their goal through grants, phone calls, bake sales, auctions, and countless hours of hard work. The lodge seats 200 people with a full kitchen and bathrooms. The open house and ribbon cutting showed off the other beach projects.

The friends group raised $20,000 in 2008 for a playground, and in 2010, it raised $50,000 in funds and in-kind labor to construct an ADA fishing bridge, which also connects the two campgrounds.

In 2012, the friends partnered with the local Izaak Walton League and raised over $265,000 to construct an ADA concrete fishing trail, which is over a mile long, going from the campground to the upper portion of the lake where the silt dam is located. Most of the trail runs along the shoreline with 20 “bump out” areas and a curb at the end, along people in wheelchairs to get next to the water and to cast into areas where fishing structures were added during the lake renovation. It also connects to an ADA fishing pier and to boat rental, the beach are, and the lodge.

Partnering with the Iowa DNR in 2013, the friends group raised $400,000 to construct six two- bedroom modern cabins with kitchens and bathrooms. These opened to the public for rental this summer.

Another amenity was the group’s partnering with a local artist to construct a life size bronze bust of Ding Darling, for whom the park is named. Using a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, the bust is set on a limestone pillar constructed by the friends, with the DNR adding interpretive panels. This is the first stop for many first-time visitors. The friends and the state also renamed the highway going past the park the “Ding Darling Memorial Highway.”

To complement the work of art, the group raised $105,000 to construct the “Ding Darling Interpretive Pathway,” a half-mile long concrete ADA path, lined with interpretive panels focused on Darlings’ life and accomplishments. This connects the new and existing cabins to the beach and boat rental, and is a great place for visitors as well as school children on field trips to learn about Ding Darling and conservation. It was completed this summer.

The long process of lake renovation brought the lake back to the original 302 surface acres. The official grand opening Sept.17, 2014, was exactly 54 years to the day when Ding Darling took part in the original gate closing ceremony.

Over the years, the friends group became friends with a documentary film director who produced a film on Ding Darling. They helped him create a documentary on Lake Darling, focusing on conservation, local groups, communities, and neighbors all working together with state government to rebuild this lake and park, and on the influence that Ding Darling’s legacy had on this project. The friends partnered by being a major sponsor to the documentary, titled Darling is Back! The Restoration of Lake Darling, which aired on Iowa Public Television in the spring of 2016.

The mission of the National Association of State Park Directors is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.

Michigan Tourism Group Receives National Honor

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It is always great to recognize the amazing supporters that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

NASPD recognized the contributions of Michigan Cares for Tourism with a President’s Award for a statewide organization. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

Michigan Cares for Tourism, a 100 percent volunteer, 100 percent give-back partnership was created by Patty Janes, PhD, a professor at Grand Valley State University, and forged between Michigan tourism organizations Travel Michigan (the Pure Michigan brand manager), Indian Trails, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

The mission of Michigan Cares for Tourism, known on social media as #MC4T, is to unite groups to help restore Michigan’s historic attractions, learn about the state’s tourism destinations, and network across industry segments, ultimately to enhance visitors’ experience, and to be more involved professionals.

Since 2014, nearly 900 tourism professionals from Destination Marketing Organizations, attractions, lodging properties, transportation organizations, parks and recreation sites, professional associations, universities and others have volunteered time and talents to support Michigan cares for Tourism “voluntourism” events. These efforts provide $307,000 in labor and supply savings for MDNR at four historical locations, including Waterloo Recreation Areas’ Historic Mill Lake, Belle Isle Park, the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, and Fayette Historic State Park.

Based on the national non-profit Tourism Cares, the group offers a multi-day event that includes experiencing the highlights of the host community, followed by a full-day volunteer event. Each participant pays $50 to participate in the experience, as well as paying for his or her lodging. Food, entertainment and volunteer materials are provided, as well as a free T-shirt.

Indian Trails’ motor coaches with stops along routes from the four corners of Michigan provide travel to and from the event at no charge to riders. When they arrive, participants enjoy the food, beer and wine, and hospitality of the most unique places in the region, all planned by the host community, most often the local convention & visitor’s bureau, as a way to show off what makes their place special. In the past, this has included trout farm and glass bottom boat tours, free tickets to a Detroit Tigers game, visits to museums and a maple syrup farm, and private pace car rides at Michigan International Speedway.

After a busy day of adventure in Michigan’s hidden tourism gems, the participants stay at the host lodging option, which provides a special Michigan Cares for Tourism rate.

The next morning, teams are randomly assigned and given their project for the day. Each host venue is responsible for creating the scope of work for the project, as well as the associated materials list and total volunteer capacity. This plan determines what each team will do for the day, and what MC4T needs to be donated prior to the event, as well as how many participants can register. The last two events have been sold out, with waiting lists.

Volunteer work may include basic manual labor tasks, such as brush clearing, painting and staining, but has also offered hand-on experience in plastering, archaeology and invasive species identification and eradication.

This year’s group will work on the Felt Mansion in Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The 98-year-old mansion and carriage house are popular tourist destinations and need the extra care that Michigan Cares 4 Tourism volunteers can provide.

Patty Janes’ foresight and organization in creating Michigan Cares for Tourism has made a significant difference. These historic sites are no longer degrading because of the lack of attention and upkeep and these projects will keep them in good shape for many more years.

The added benefit of networking and partnering between Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Businesses, hospitality students and Michigan State Parks is one worth repeating in other states.

The mission of the Association is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.

Geigis Receives National Award from State Parks Group

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It is always great to recognize the amazing people that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

NASPD recognized Priscilla E. Geigis, the Director of MassParks of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) with its Distinguished Service Award. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to a State Park Director who has demonstrated a long-term, sustained record of professional accomplishment in the field of parks and recreation.

As Director, she has managed over 350,000 acres of public land, from the Boston Harbor Islands to Mount Greylock in the Berkshires, encompassing forests, parks, rail trails, parkways, beaches, rinks, pools and golf courses. Ms Geigis strives to enhance visitor experiences throughout the Commonwealth and the nation.

Ms. Geigis’ love for parks and nature began and was nurtured in childhood, with hiking and camping adventures at state and national parks across the country each summer with her family. Her passion is demonstrated through her efforts in getting kids – and kids at heart – connected to the great outdoors, fostering healthy lifestyles and promoting shared stewardship of our natural, cultural and recreational resources.

She was the driving force behind developing Learn to Camp programs, bringing Connecticut’s Great Park Pursuit to Massachusetts and working with staff to develop and launch DCR’s Park Passport program all in an effort to promote parks and provide memorable and inspirational experiences for families and visitors of all ages.

Citing her belief that “everyone has a role to play in preserving and enhancing our parks,” Ms. Geigis created Park Serve Day, which has become one of the DCR’s signature annual events and its largest volunteer day. April 30, 2016, marked 10 years of Park Serve Day statewide, with over 4,000 volunteers completing projects in Massachusetts State Parks to help staff get ready for the busy summer recreation season.

Another program of which she is a proud founder is DCR’s Outdoor Kitchen, which demonstrates healthy recipes to make while camping and picnicking using locally-raised produce. She also created DCR’s Healthy Heart Trail Program, designating 70 easy to walk 1.5-mile trails across the state to encourage daily physical exercise and to connect to the natural world, a program recognized by the American Red Cross.

This summer, Ms Geigis and her team, working with community partners, launched DCR’s Summer Nights program to provide free recreational, leadership and arts-based programs to youth at DCR facilities in urban communities.

In October 2015, she received the Fran P. Mainella Award for sustained and innovative achievement by a woman in the management of North America’s natural, historical or cultural heritage.

Ms Geigis served as NASPD president from 2012-2015 and as a member of the board of directors since 2005. During her tenure, she expanded a successful Massachusetts program to all 50 states, launching America’s State Parks First Day Hikes, on Jan. 1, 2012, and serving as the national coordinator in 2012 and 2013. January 2016 marked the national program’s fifth year in promoting America’s State Parks, healthy lifestyles and year-round recreation. She also established a mentor program and resource materials to guide new state park directors. As former Co-Chair of the Children in Nature Partnership, she worked with local, state and national park colleagues to develop best practice webinars to share ideas across the country about how to connect kids with nature.

She graduated from Connecticut College, earned a master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Center of Government, and a law degree from Northeastern School of Law. She began her career in state government working for the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement, and then for the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs prior to her role with DCR.

The mission of the National Association of State Park Directors is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.

Earnhardt Receives National Award from State Parks Group

The National Association of State Park Directors today announced its annual award recipients for contributions and support of state parks and state park systems across the United States.

“It is always great to recognize the amazing supporters that give of themselves to America’s State Parks,” commented Dominic Bravo, NASPD President.

NASPD recognized the contributions of Tom Earnhardt of North Carolina with this year’s Ney Landrum Park History Award. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

Earnhardt’s commitment, skills and determination resulted in his becoming a primary historian of North Carolina’s state parks and the natural resources they protect. As producer, director, writer, narrator, videographer and benefactor, he developed an hour-long documentary, Saving the Best: North Carolina State Parks at 100, which coincided with the state’s 100th anniversary in 2016,

While the film documents and illustrates the history, beauty and opportunities in North Carolina’s state parks, it puts the protection of biodiversity and natural resources into historical context. Earnhardt has pledged that the raw material will be made available for varied educational uses, carrying out his dedication to the state’s education regarding the stewardship of natural resources.

As naturalist, author and producer/host of the 60-episode UNC-TV Emmy nominated series Exploring North Carolina, spanning 12 years, Tom has spent years exploring and explaining about the parks and their mission, which contributed to this definitive presentation of the system’s history. For the documentary, he secured funding and professional musical performances and use rights for the project. To acquire new footage, he revisited state parks from one end of the state to the other.

During the documentary’s first airing on January 27, 2016, on UNC-TV, the parks of North Carolina hosted viewing parties for friends groups, supporters, neighbors and visitors to celebrate the Centennial. The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation and the Friends of State Parks also hosted a reception and special viewing event in the digital theater of the state’s Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Public servant, law professor, writer and videographer, Tom Earnhardt has made lasting contributions to North Carolina, serving as an architect of its conservation ethic and extraordinary ambassador for the best about the state. One aspect of this dedication is his seeking opportunities to connect young people with the environment and igniting a deeper understanding of environmental stewardship.

His TV series is a visual record of the state’s amazing diversity and of its successes in protecting natural resources through the state parks, the Museum of Natural Sciences, related state agencies, wildlife preserves and nonprofit conservancy lands. Earnhardt’s contagious enthusiasm for the natural world reveals a passionate conservationist who guides North Carolinians to understand and appreciate the wonderful place they call home. This level of commitment led to his being a recipient of the Governor’s North Carolina Conservationist of the Year Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Tom Earnhardt’s dedication and commitment to North Carolina’s lands, waters and people is unmatched, making him a worthy recipient of this award from NASPD.

“The Ney Landrum Park History Award was established as a way of recognizing those who document and preserve valuable information about our state parks so achievements and activities can be shared with current and future generations,” Lewis Ledford, NASPD executive director, said. “Tom Earnhardt’s commitment to North Carolina’s state parks and the natural resources they protect is unmatched. He is a worthy recipient of this distinguished award.”

The mission of the Association is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. Collectively, America’s State Parks include more than 10,250 areas encompassing over 18.3 million acres, and received 760 million visitors in 2015.