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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 athttp://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.