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.