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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.