STONE MOUNTAIN, GA The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) presented its 2009 President’s and Park History Awards last evening to honor groups and individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to state parks at a local, regional, or national level, and for outstanding efforts in original research and presentation of state park history. President’s Awards were granted to the Morton Family of North Carolina, the Blackstone Valley Maple Sugaring Association of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The Park History Award was presented to Ron Blome of Blome Productions in Arkansas.
“We are thrilled to honor people who have given their time and talents to better our nation’s state park system through their actions in their home states,” said Joe Elton, president of NASPD. “They represent many other individuals, friends, and partners who we, as park directors and citizens of our states, rely upon to help preserve and enhance our state park treasures across the nation.”
The Morton Family was recognized for working with state officials in North Carolina to preserve 2,400-acre Grandfather Mountain, a family-owned property affording rich natural resources and recreational opportunities for visitors and residents. Valued at $25 million, the property was sold to the state for $12 million, due to the generosity and conservation ethic of the family. “Generations of our family have loved this mountain,” said Jim Morton, “so we are heartened to know that many other families will be able to enjoy this beautiful land for generations to come.”
The Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association helps Massachusetts residents “tap” into nature by providing hands-on, innovative programs that teach children and adults about the maple sugaring process. For the past eight springs, the Association has devoted thousands of volunteer hours at the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, to offer Maple Sugar Days on spring weekends. “We engage visitors in the entire process, from indentifying and tapping a sugar maple to eating maple sugar treats,” said Valerie Paul, founder and president of the Association.“ We want to connect kids to nature, and particularly to this New England tradition, this park, and the rich history of the Blackstone Valley Corridor, ”Visitors learn that they don’t need fancy equipment, milk jugs make great sap buckets and they are encouraged to try maple sugaring at home. One inspired visitor who did just that reported, “Now my children check their sap buckets before they check their emails!” At a time when children are spending more time watching television and using computers, this statement speaks volumes about the Association’s impact on connecting children and adults to nature and their parks. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation was honored for its assistance to non-federal partners in developing new and better business practices. The Bureau has developed “how-to” documents, such as the “Outdoor Recreation Business Plan Guidebook” on managing water-based recreation facilities and activities, and has shared these publications with more than 17 states.
The bureau also standardized systems across the western states to help meet the increasing public demands for water-based outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities. A separate awards presentation will be made with Bureau officials in Washington, D.C. Ron Blome of Blome Productions received NASPD’s Park History award for his documentary commemorating the Arkansas state parks’ 75th anniversary. The 27-minute anniversary video, “Arkansas State Parks: 75 Years Making Memories,” shares the human story of how the Arkansas state park system came into being. It shows how the earliest state parks endure as a tribute to the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps and portrays how, year after year, the park system evolved and expanded. “I have always loved the parks, so writing and producing this video was a rare privilege,” said Blome. “My sincere hope is that it will help people in our state and across the nation realize how special our state parks are and how we must all work together to preserve, protect, and enhance the land and the legacy for future generations.” The National Association of State Parks Directors is composed of park directors from all 50 states.
NASPD meets annually in September to share ideas about operations, budgets, and other issues. This year’s meeting focused on balancing budget challenges with meeting operational needs and visitor expectations.