KY – Many state parks will remain open every day for lodging this winter

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 3, 2016) – Kentucky State Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland announced today that 16 state parks will remain open for lodging seven days a week this winter.

During previous winters, some resort parks were open four days a week. Holland said all functioning resort parks would be open for lodging to encourage more use and visitation.

“We want to encourage Kentuckians and our guests from out of state to stay at a Kentucky State Park any time of the year,” Holland said.

The winter remains a busy time for Kentucky State Parks with many outdoor and indoor events scheduled.

These events include wildlife viewing weekends for elk, eagles and sandhill cranes; guided hikes and annual events such Winter Adventure Weekend at Carter Caves State Resort Park. There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails at Kentucky State Parks.

There are special events planned for Thanksgiving Day, the Christmas holidays, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day as well as dinner theaters, gift shops and two indoor pools, at Lake Cumberland and Lake Barkley State Resort Parks. There’s also an indoor tennis center at Kenlake State Resort Park.

Resort park restaurants may have different schedules. Visitors should check in advance for dining times and schedules.

The resort parks also have conference facilities that make excellent locations for conferences, weddings and other gatherings. Many resort parks serve alcoholic beverages at their restaurants and have them available for conferences.

Groups interested in lodging, meals and meeting space should call the parks’ sales department to check on availability.

Cottages at all resort parks and John James Audubon State Park in Henderson are available for rental seven days a week.

The park system’s golf courses remain open, weather permitting. Six park campgrounds will also remain open during winter months: Carter Caves, Columbus-Belmont, Fort Boonesborough, General Butler, Paintsville Lake and Levi Jackson. Some campgrounds may turn off water lines during winter months.

Recreational and historic site parks will have hours that vary by park during the winter. Check the parks website or call the park for hours and information. Many of these parks can also accommodate groups interested in visiting.

For more information about park hours and special events, visit www.parks.ky.gov or call 1-800-255-7275. To make a reservation, visit www.parks.ky.gov and click on the “Reserve a lodge/cottage” link at the top of the page.

OCTOBER 3, 2016

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.

Arkansas Naturalist Organization 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 Arkansas Naturalist Organization with its President’s Award for the state-wide organization. The award was presented Thursday at NASPD’s annual meeting at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana.

Citing the organization’s incredible contribution to the State Parks of Arkansas through its ongoing volunteer activities, the NASPD is proud to recognize and honor the Arkansas Naturalist Organization. Since its inception in 2007, this organization of approximately 400 members statewide has worked tirelessly to keep Arkansas in its natural state.

The first chapters were the Central Chapter, the Northwest and North Central chapters, followed by the River Valley, Northeast, Diamond Lakes and West chapters. Each chapter functions in a unique section of the state and, therefore, each has its own unique approach to what is needed in that area of the state.

Although all chapters address specific problems in their geographic areas of the state, there is a common thread running through them all – that of volunteering and community education regarding the uniqueness of the Arkansas environment and the state parks that thrive within that environment. Master naturalists travel to the various state parks. Members from these chapters work to maintain the Arkansas State Parks’ natural beauty when they volunteer as data collectors, interpreters, greeters, guides and instructors. Their activities include planting and restoration activities, trail maintenance and clean-up, stream testing and creating wildlife habitats.

The bioinventory teams collect data that becomes part of a data base to track all species with the state parks. The State Parks Bioinventory System is now open to the public, and the information entered at all 52 parks can be accessed at http://www.aspnrid. com/nrid/public.pch.

Trail patrol teams clear park trails, repair damage of storms, build bridges and create new trails when needed. Groups of wildflower enthusiasts maintain gardens while other teams archive artifacts donated to the state parks through the Past Perfect Program.

Individuals who volunteer on a regular basis to teach K-12 school groups. Also, each fall, chapters engage in a Fall Clean-up that assists park personnel with painting, brush removal, bird box cleaning and hanging, and trail and garden maintenance.

The organization is also exploring the possibilities of creating other chapters in areas not served by State Parks. This is a challenging endeavor because of the population in these areas.

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.

 

NJ – Budget cuts doom state parks to disrepair

NJ Botanical Garden/Skylands Association VP Frank Dyer shows damage to the Pump House in Ringwood.

NJ Botanical Garden/Skylands Association VP Frank Dyer shows damage to the Pump House in Ringwood.
The sweat dripped onto the collar of Frank Dyer’s half-open jeans shirt in the fields around Skylands Manor in Ringwood State Park as he and three other volunteers cleared brush and spread mulch in a sprawling lilac garden.
 It was punishing work on a July day when temperatures touched 90 before noon, and many workers were retired seniors.
NJ Botanical Garden/Skylands Association VP Frank Dyer shows damage to the Pump House in Ringwood.

MITSU YASUKAWA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Roads are crumbling at Skylands Mano in Ringwood State Park.

But as money dedicated to maintaining and improving state parks dwindles amid mammoth budget gaps, the work by Dyer — a rangy, 75-year-old retired chemist — and his compatriots has become more necessity than luxury.

After all, if volunteers like them didn’t do this labor, who would?

Photos:  Funding cuts to state parks have left them struggling to keep up 

But there are some projects they just can’t do, like replacing the historic Carriage House Visitor Center’s cedar-shingled roof, which rots under a quilt of damp moss, or paving the patched and potholed main road.

For that, you need professionals and lots of money — the roof itself will cost at least $90,000 — but there’s no cash in state coffers. Fortunately, at least for the roof repair, again there’s private help: The nonprofit New Jersey Botanical Garden/Skylands Association will pick up the expense with donations.

It’s a familiar scenario statewide, where park staff and volunteer groups strain to perform basic repairs and maintain infrastructure despite cuts to the state Natural and Historic Resources capital budget.

Why that fund has shrunk — and how to reverse that — is a point of contention.

Some environmental groups blame a voter-approved 2014 constitutional amendment. It shifted revenues from the state’s Corporation Business Tax away from capital improvements. Instead, they bolster Green Acres, a taxpayer-financed program that has preserved more than 650,000 acres of open space in its 55 years.

But others, including NJ Keep It Green, a coalition of more than 180 environmental groups that advocated for the 2014 amendment, say the funding has been a pittance compared to what parks actually need: state estimates put the backlog of capital improvements at about $400 million. They argue that the situation is the result of decades of budgetary neglect by governors who prioritized funding their own projects instead.

And the governor’s office blames the Legislature, which it said “continues to ignore the governor’s warnings” against repurposing business tax money that supported “many crucial environmental programs.”

Meanwhile, attendance at state parks and historical sites has slowly increased: The Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the 445,000 acres of state-owned parks, forests and recreational areas, expects nearly 18.3 million visitors this year, a million more than in 2014.

State Sen. Bob Smith, a Piscataway Democrat who sponsored the bill that placed the 2014 amendment on the public ballot, called it the “holy grail” the state’s environmental movement had been looking for: a dedicated money source for continued open-space purchases.

Approved by a 65-35 percent margin by voters, the amendment earmarked about $80 million each year from the Corporation Business Tax to finance open space, farmland, and historic preservation. That total will rise in 2020 when the tax allocation increases.

Some environmentalists say the amendment had an unintended but severe impact on the Natural and Historic Resources capital budget. The budget had been replenished each year from the same tax, a dedication secured in a prior, 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment. That amendment was to provide a “reliable and stable source of funding” that would enable the DEP to make “long-term investments in the state park system,” according to a 2013 draft of the state’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

It provided about $15 million annually, and would have doubled to $32 million in 2016.

But the 2014 measure ended that dedication and canceled the planned-for increase. That, said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, has redirected money to land acquisition instead of capital improvements at parks. “We’re buying farm fields out in Hunterdon County that the public can’t use instead of fixing state parks that the public will use,” Tittel said.

Mark Texel, head of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, called it a “massive blow” and said in a Facebook post soon after the vote that it was “the darkest day I have faced in my professional career.”

“We had a plan to really tackle some of these major capital projects that had been deferred for many, many years,” Texel said. “And we were making progress. Suddenly now our capital budget is having the legs cut out from underneath it. … It was disappointing, I admit. I was very disappointed.”

Full Article->

 

 

WA – Bike Your Park Day 2016

 

ebey-mountain-biking-youtube-capture

Imagine exploring your favorite park.

Now imagine exploring your favorite park…on a bike!

 

Did you feel that shift? Did your awesome meter just peak? We’re not surprised! Beach cruiser or BMX, recumbent or mountain bike—few transportation modes are more simple and exciting than cycling. It’s great exercise, and on a bike you get the benefit of speed and an intimate connection between you and road, path or trail.

The Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you’re an avid cyclist, or your bike is gathering a bit of dust in the garage, now is the perfect time to go for a ride at your favorite state park—or even explore a new one! The byp_logoweather can be  just right, and Sept. 24 is the first-ever Bike Your Park Day! You can register your ride at bikeyourparkday.org and go on your own, with friends or join a ride withothers! It’s also a State Parks free dayin celebration of National Public Lands Day. That means you won’t need a Discover Pass to park your bike transporter (aka your car).

So you’ve got the bike, you’ve got the spirit—now all you need is a destination. Where you go will depend a little on what type of cycling you prefer. Fear not! Your state parks have the perfect spot no matter how you roll!

Adventure samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

For simplicity’s sake, we’ve divided the adventures into trails better suited to mountain or fat-tire bikes and those you could comfortably ride on a road bike.

 

Smooth Moves

 

dventure-awaits-bike-your-park-day-blog-9-24-16

Prefer cruising to crushing it? These are the rides for you! Head out to a bike-friendly park such as Wenatchee Confluence pictured above. It’s a hub for bikers of all ages. This family has been coming back to the park each year since 2008.

Centennial Trail State Park

Long, flat, paved and easy to ride, the 37-mile Centennial Trail is a great ride for the whole family no matter what kind of bike you ride. Bring a camera! The trail parallels the gorgeous tree-lined banks of the Spokane River. Look for great photo ops around every bend, and the Sandifur Memorial Bridge over the river is a spectacular vantage point. This is a day-use park only, but you can camp at nearby Riverside State Park. Camp by night and ride the trail by day!

Westport Light and Westhaven State Parks

While you may need a fat-tire bike or beach cruiser to tackle the sand, it’s easy to ride the Dune Trail, starting at the Westport Light State Park parking lot and continuing all the way to Westhaven State Park. A great day destination, the trail offers stunning views along the way as you roll into Westport for lunch or dinner out.

Moran State Park

If you are an EXPERIENCED road biker and up for a fun, beautiful ride and a good workout, set your sights on the road to Mount Constitution at Moran State Park on Orcas Island. Paved all the way to the top, this two-lane road packs a lot of wow factor with thrilling water views between stretches of emerald forest. It’s a popular ride for recumbent bike riders as well as road and mountain bikers. Be fairly warned, however. It’s an old, narrow highway with little to no shoulder and sheer drops in some spots. Plus, you’ll be sharing the road with motorists and motorcycle riders. Stay safe! You’re reward for the climb up the mountain is a great downhill rush with even more opportunity to appreciate the fall foliage and scenery.

 

Willapa Hills State Park Trail

Roll the rails! Or at least take a ride where they used to be. Built on the path a defunct spur of the Northern Pacific Railway, the Willapa Hills State Park Trail traverses rocky rivers, hearty train bridges and trestles and wends westward through verdant fields toward the mighty Pacific. The first 5 miles west from the Chehalis Trailhead are paved, and the sturdy steel bridges are resurfaced, making riding a snap for all ages. Once you get past the paving, the trail becomes compacted gravel and you may need a bike with more rugged tires to cycle on it.

Wenatchee Confluence State Park to Lincoln Rock State Park 

Wenatchee Confluence State Park is a family adventure hotspot—and very popular with local bicycle enthusiasts. Green lawns for tag. Ball fields for basketball, baseball, volleyball and soccer. Two playgrounds for toddlers and grade school children. You name it, Wenatchee Confluence has your family covered. And biking is no exception. The park connects to the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail—perfect for family rides. Hop on the Wenatchee side of the trail for paved biking adventures. The east side is fun, too, but is more suited for more experienced riders. Adding to the fun is the Rocky Reach Trail, which connects you to Lincoln Rock State Park!

 

Rugged Riders

 

Biking John Wayne

Do you say “bonus!” to more bounce? Gear up for a great time with these trails, including the popular John Wayne/Iron Horse State Park Trail pictured here. Photo by Keith and Kasia Moore.

 

John Wayne Pioneer Trail – Iron Horse State Park 

Mountain biking thrills for miles. More of a trek than a single downhill run, Iron Horse is 100 miles and 1,600 acres of converted Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad line. Tunnels, trestles, hills, valleys—it’s all here. With multiple trailheads and lots of stops (bathrooms, too) along the way to camp, you can rest or just meet up with the buddy who’s meeting you to take you back to your car. Bonus: Right now the weather is pretty good on most of the trail, especially the eastern portion. Plus, the leaves are glowing with fall color! Check the weather before you go! Word of caution: Tunnel 47 on the trail is closed for repairs at the time of this blog’s publication. Check our alerts page for more details before you go.

Fields Spring State Park

Out at the far southeastern corner of Washington, Fields Spring is a great destination for an epic fall camping and biking trip. Located at an elevation of 4,500 feet in the Blue Mountains, this park features 7 miles of yee-haw!-inducing bike trails to ride. Try Puffer Butte, a made-for-mountain-biking ride that overlooks the surrounding hills at its summit. Stay the night in the lovely forested campground.

Columbia Plateau Trail State Park

With 48 miles of biking-ready trails and multiple trail heads, Columbia Plateau Trail State Park  is one of Washington’s “it” spots for a major bike trip. Built along the converted bed of the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle rail lines, the trail winds through amazing historic country.

Squilchuck State Park

Squilchuck IS mountain biking. With more than 5 miles of trails at a variety of skill levels  an adventure awaits your whole biking family! Volunteers from Evergreen Mountain Biking Alliance (EMBA) worked hard to improve the trails here with jumps, bumps, thrilling down hills and thigh-busting inclines. There are even some training areas with course challenges where you can practice before hitting the trail! Park staff say Squilchuck is becoming so popular with mountain-biking enthusiasts that more trails—and a new bathroom— are in the works! Camp the night here and make it a family biking vacay! Or better yet, get a group of 20 or more (up to 100) of your favorite biking buddies together and plan an epic adventure with a stay at the group camp. When you stay in the group camp you also can book the popular Squilchuck Lodge, which is available for use by up to 75 people between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. To reserve the group camp call Wenatchee Confluence State Park at (509) 664-6373.

Fort Ebey State Park

On the shores of Whidbey Island, this lesser-known park is the former site of a World War II coastal-defense fort. Now it’s an inspiring mix of the kind of mossy, misty forest the Pacific Northwest is famous for and rugged, sandy trails through grass-covered dunes. Bring your rain gear and be prepared for a unique and invigorating ride through 25 miles of trails. Tired and wet? Rest, eat and dry off exploring the war-era bunkers or just hang out at the large picnic shelter.

 

Mount Spokane State Park

Really relish a rough ride? Rad! Come find it at Mount Spokane! This park is vast—13,919 acres— and covered in miles upon miles of rocky, rutted dirt roads. To top it off, many of these roads lead to some spectacular views. This might be a bit too much for little kids or some less experienced riders, but it should be on any mountain-biking enthusiast’s bucket list.


These are just a few ideas!
Explore our website for more biking adventures near you!

Have you a favorite state park biking adventure?
Tell us about it and share your stories and videos here!

Feature photo a still shot taken from a video of mountain biking at Fort Ebey State Park by David Thuet

SHARE THIS:

Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest