RALEIGH, N.C. – 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 (NASPD) annual conference “Relevance & Essential Service in America's State Parks,” December 9-10, 2020. The conference of parks and recreation professionals was held virtually this year to share best practices in park management.
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 highlights best practices and programs from around the country, accepts nominations from all states for recognition in several categories.
The NASPD’s President’s awards goes to persons or organizations, such as “Friends Organizations” external to the state park system who have made major contributions to state park excellence. This year’s President’s Award highlighted four categories for advancing the goals of a specific park system. These categories included: Local, Statewide, Corporate Partner, and Individual.
The Statewide Category is given to an organization or individual that has significantly impacted a state park system that has improved quality of life, sustainable resource protection, and enhanced the state park experience.
This award was presented to Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation for the construction of Arkansas State Parks Monument Trails and development of a trail system highlighting unique resources and locations while demonstrating sustainable construction of multi-use trails.
Monument Trails are world-class mountain biking destinations that showcase the natural iconic beauty of the parks they are within while exemplifying the highest quality in craftsmanship, innovation, and sustainability. These shared-use trails offer enduring outdoor experiences to trail riders, runners, and hikers of all skill levels, connecting them to a sense of place and history while providing a modern approach with visually unexpected architectural features and art. Monument Trails promise a unique adventure for park guests, and are aimed to be a source of pride and rediscovery for local communities.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, Mount Nebo State Park, and Devil’s Den State Park all have Monument Trails. They are the result of generosity of the Walton Family Foundation in collaboration with Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation and Arkansas State Parks.
No park system could be successful without the dedication of our park partners. Whether individuals, foundations, or groups, park leaders constantly work alongside others who share the same passion for America's state parks. They fight alongside park teams to improve the quality of life in the state’s communities while protecting cultural and natural environments. Through passion and commitment, the accomplishments in the park field are seldom achieved without the activists who share the zeal for open spaces, trails, historic sites, parks, or any of a hundred other causes.
“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.