Alabama State Parks honored seven individuals and one organization over the weekend at the eighth annual Eagle Awards. The awards ceremony took place at Lake Guntersville State Park.
“Our Alabama State Parks attract millions of visitors each year, and that wouldn’t be possible without the enormous contributions made by volunteers, elected officials and community partners who help us provide programs and recreational activities year-round,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Every year, the Eagle Awards ceremony gives us a prime opportunity to show our appreciation for all of their efforts, which are aimed at bolstering outdoor recreation and making sure our State Parks System remains among the best in America.
“We truly thank them for their dedication and hard work.”
Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein said the winners were partners of the state parks.
“We have a simple slogan: ‘Partners pay the way’, and the Eagle Award winners truly are partners in every way possible,” said Lein. “We thank them for giving their time and talent to our state parks, and we’re honored that they work to make our parks better than ever.”
The 2024 Eagle Award winners are:
- Elected official: Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth has been a passionate supporter of Alabama State Parks, from advocating for his hometown parks at Lake Guntersville and Buck’s Pocket to focusing attention on the needs of all our State Parks while he presided over the Senate’s Alabama State Parks Bond Amendment consideration and vote.
- Elected official: State Rep. Danny Crawford of Athens serves as chairman for the Joint Legislative Committee on State Parks. He also takes the initiative to host legislative events at state parks.
- Youth: Kendra Glover, a freshman at Albertville High School, volunteers at Lake Guntersville State Park with her mother each year during Eagle Awareness Weekends, making sure the programs flow smoothly for everyone. She is known as a young champion for Lake Guntersville State Park programs.
- Youth: Jackson Colley, a senior at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City, built two kiosks at Wind Creek State Park for his Eagle Scout project. The lifesaving kiosk includes a life ring and rope, along with emergency contact numbers. The glass-covered trail kiosk is at the beginning of the walking trail and features an encased bulletin board that allows park staff to post trail maps and information about local wildlife.
- Community partner: Raptor Ridge Wildlife Education, a nonprofit organ
ization based in Eclectic, educates the community about everything related to raptors. The group also provides education to the public about native wildlife with the assistance of rescued, non-releasable raptor ambassadors.
- Parks partner: Dan Hendricks, Alabama State Parks Foundation, helped create and launch the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018. He became the organization’s first president and served through this month. A Florence resident, he remains a member of the ASPF Board of Directors.
- Volunteers in parks: Emily Duke has been involved in birds of prey presentations at Chewacla and Wind Creek state parks. She also serves as a bird handler during Eagle Awareness programs at Lake Guntersville State Park. She has partnered with a number of organizations, including Raptor Ridge Wildlife Education, Rise Raptor Project and Wings to Soar, to promote environmental stewardship.
- Volunteers in parks: Jimmy Stiles volunteered and provided education programs at Eagle Awareness Weekends from 1988 to 2000. He provided programming free of charge to the public on topics such as herpetology, prescribed fires and ecosystem management, and he also has led risk management programming for park personnel to highlight safe and effective venomous snake handling and removal.
The State Parks Division of the ADCNR is responsible for maintaining 21 state parks encompassing over 50,000 acres of land and water.
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.