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America’s State Parks Recognizes State Parks Excellence

Dec 15, 2020

America’s State Parks Recognizes State Parks Excellence

RALEIGH – A national organization dedicated to supporting and promoting state parks has recognized distinguished people, projects and programs across the country for extraordinary achievements in managing state park systems.

The awards were presented at the National Association of State Park Directors’ annual conference, titled Relevance & Essential Service in America's State Parks, December 9 - 10. The conference of parks and recreation professionals was held virtually this year to share best practices in park management.

The NASPD works to promote and advance America’s State Parks for their significance and contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. The annual conference which highlights best practices and programs from around the country, accepts nominations from all states for recognition in several categories.

Two keynote addresses highlighted the more than one dozen sessions over the two days of the virtual conference attended by 285 leaders of America’s State Parks from 45 states. Dr. Mike Osterholm, a nationally recognized epidemiologist from the University of Minnesota spoke on the future of COVID and what public service providers should understand and plan for in 2021. The author of The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, James Edward Mills provided insights and understandings in moving from good intent to deliberate action on creating an anti-racist outdoor recreational environment.

Receiving the organization’s Innovation Award was Hocking Hills State Park and Ohio State Parks for their efforts to create a safe visitor experience on their popular trail system by creating and managing a one-way trail system. The recipient of this award best exemplifies innovation in state parks by creating a best practice, demonstrating exceptional problem solving, improving outdoor recreation opportunities or enhancing cultural resources.

Additionally, other organizations and people were given NASPD’s President’s awards in four categories for advancing the goals of a specific park system. Recipients were:

  • Local category - Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation, for their contributions to enhancing the parks and quality of life for more than a decade in the Mat-Su region of Alaska.

  • Statewide category – The Arkansas Parks Monument Trails, for the development of a world-class trail system highlighting unique resources and locations while demonstrating sustainable construction of multi-use trails.

  • Corporate Partner category – Travel Iowa and Banwango, for their partnership with Iowa State Parks to create a virtual Park Passport to celebrate their 100-year anniversary after the pandemic canceled their plans.

  • Individual award – Clyde Gosnell and Louise “Omie” Warner for their work helping Ohio State Parks with the development of parks, improving the safety for visitors and support of improved resources in the state through their organizations.

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 park and recreation management. This year’s winner is Nita Settina, superintendent of Maryland’s State Parks. Named superintedent in 2008, Nita immediately focused on underserved communities with the creation of the Conservation Jobs Corps, which now provides jobs for 300-400 people each year. She has been instrumental in the acquisition, construction and development of several parks, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and has worked diligently to enhance and protect the state’s natural and cultural resources.

“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.”

“Though the pandemic limited our annual in-person conference, the virtual conference was an important way to reflect on the experiences and challenges of an especially difficult year, and making plans for 2021 to continue providing outdoor recreational opportunities to the more than 813 million annual visitors to the state parks across the country,” Ledford added.

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