Managers of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Receive Honors at Recent Conference
Several Georgia State Park and Historic Site employees were honored recently at a conference at Unicoi State Park. Managers attended an awards ceremony celebrating those who make more than 60 national parks and historic sites exceptional destinations across Georgia. They also attended training sessions and shared ideas on park operations. Here are this year’s winners.
Henry Struble Director of the Year Award
Jessica James-Weems, Black Rock Mountain State Park, Mountain City
Director Jessica James-Weems is a wonderful example of a servant leader with an infectious can-do spirit. She fully supports her staff while ensuring that the needs of the fleet and customers are met. Her accomplishments in the Department of Natural Resources Search and Rescue team make her an invaluable asset, being a Division Certified Playground Safety Inspector and mentoring future rangers. The challenges of this higher elevation park, such as bear activity, snow and ice, and frequent maintenance, are always met quickly. James-Weems is one of the strongest leaders in the park network.
Park Ranger Bravery Award
Mikayla Murphy – Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin and Florence Marina State Park, Omaha
Director Mikayla Murphy received a call indicating that a visitor had been stung by bees in Providence Canyon, did not have his EpiPen, and was in anaphylactic shock. Murphy was in Florence Marina but immediately rushed to the bottom of the canyon. Although passers-by gave the hiker an EpiPen, he had seizures, swelling and was unconscious. Murphy quickly transported him by UTV while Rhonda Hudson, a staff member, stabilized her head. The hiker was taken to hospital for life and was released the next day due to this immediate response.
Most remarkable site operation
Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn
Director Brad Gibson and his team operate one of Georgia’s most popular state parks while excelling in personnel, budgeting, resource management, programming, customer service, housekeeping, maintenance and community involvement. While most parks were busier during the pandemic, Cloudland had one of the highest cabin occupancy rates in the state, increasing visitation by more than 100,000 each over the three years, has achieved record revenues and has handled numerous emergencies. Gibson is an exceptional park manager.
Natural resource development award
Reed Bingham State Park, Adel
Warden Wayne (Bud) Fuller and Deputy Warden Mikayla Spencer worked closely with the MNR Resource Management Unit and Georgia Forestry Commission on two prescribed burns near the trails and in the turtle restoration area of Gopher and Bigleaf Pine. Subsequently, Administrator Caroline Smith and the MNR Wildlife Division established pitchers along the Turkey Oak Trail. The park is working to control the invasive hydrilla and water hyacinth in the lake, and has conducted a quota hunt to reduce the alligator population.
Award for the best programming all year round
General Coffee State Park, Nichols
Ranger Heather Price, Warden Luke Daniels and others at this South Georgia park have worked diligently during the pandemic to provide safe programs for visitors. Last year they hosted nearly 500 programs for over 10,000 guests, including Christmas on the Pond, Pioneer Days and Spring Fling. Farm animal social media posts drew visitors on a ‘journey through time’ that included making corn husk dolls and candles, as well as exploring life on a 19th century farm. century.
Cultural resources enhancement award
Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site, Warm Springs
To mark the 75th anniversary of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Little White House, the site has completed a preservation project for the famous “The Unfinished Portrait”. This includes three portrait studies on loan from the artist Mrs Elisabeth Choumatoff. Other enhancements include the temporary exhibit “Tuskegee Airmen: The Segregated Skies of World War II”, as well as new African-American exhibits in the historic Pool Complex where FDR practiced hydrotherapy.
Customer Service Award
Michael Collier, Elijah Clark State Park, Lincolnton
Manager Michael Collier strives to provide excellent customer service and is often complimented on the importance he places on the park. Whether it’s installing a new cable system, fixing a water leak or helping parks nearby, he’s always up to the challenge. This “positive attitude” was praised by Trip Advisor. Collier recently helped a distressed boater who had jumped into the water from his boat, saving him from a potentially dangerous injury.
Best Golf Course of the Year Award
Highland Walk in Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston
In 2020, Highland Walk was named one of the “25 Best Golf Now Courses in Georgia” under the leadership of Park Manager Todd Gibson, Superintendent of Golf Shannon Crabb and Course Manager Bill Schuster. It had its most successful year to date (with over 21,000 rounds) while making many improvements, including repaving of cart paths, accessible parking, a concrete slab at the driving range, brush clearing and Moreover. The course has also hosted 25 events, including their junior golf camp.
Gui State Park, Appling
Manager Trevor Bullard and his team have created an exceptional retail store by attending gift shows and hosting sidewalk sales. Last year, the park increased its sales by more than 50 percent, ensuring that patrons needed camping and fishing supplies, as well as souvenirs.