2017 Finalists

Congratulations to all our finalists below!

Mark Twain State Park

Doug Buie

Mark Twain State Park, Missouri

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Corporal Doug Buie is an upstanding citizen who constantly is a great role model for young kids in Monroe County. He continually helps the younger generation learn more about state parks and preserving the historic aspect of them by hosting camps and visiting the local schools. He is a great role model for his own kids by setting an example himself of keeping state parks clean. He is a wonderful asset to Mark Twain State Park and to our county, as a whole. This gentleman continually gives of himself to others without expecting anything in return.

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Bryan Gray

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

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Bryan has been the manager at Stephen C. Foster located inside the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge for over six years. When he arrived at the park to begin his duties, the refuge was in the midst of the Honey Prairie Fire. He learned valuable lessons from that fire that helped him to be able to provide valuable assistance in this years West Mims Fire that burned thousands of acres around the park. This fire was followed shortly after Hurricane Irma that greatly impacted operations at the park. Irma arrived just over one year after Hurricane Matthew impacted the park. Bryan lead clean-up at several sites along the coast of Georgia following both storms.

Bryan is widely recognized as a leader in Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. There are currently four park managers and two assistant managers working on other parks that trained under him at Stephen C. Foster. Under Bryans direction, the park provides guided interpretive boat tours of the world famous Okefenokee Swamp. Due to its isolated location, Bryan was able to secure for the designation as a Gold Level Dark Sky Park from the International Dark Sky Association. The park now offers a wide range of astronomy and dark sky programs year round. Bryan operates two units of the park separated by 17 miles in one of the most remote locations in Georgia. Under his direction both units have seen record growth in visitation, revenue, and occupancy.

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James Ledgerwood

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina

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Superintendent James Ledgerwood has worked tirelessly to overcome challenges at Chimney Rock State Park this year. The elevator that serves the attraction portion of the park has been under repair for months, causing a disruption in programming, service, and access to parts of the park for those unable to climb 300+ stairs. During this time, Superintendent Ledgerwood has pursued promoting a new (in 2016) access to the park (Rumbling Bald Access) and re-designing and opening a beloved trail (Skyline Trail) to the public which was closed years ago due to safety concerns.

In October, a land slide took out a chunk of the parking lot at the base of the rock, for which Ledgerwood continues to supervise its repair and re-open this area of the park. Ledgerwood speaks passionately and sincerely about his park. His pride in his park is always evident. He is a great storyteller, a great representative and promoter of the park, and a great asset to the park. He stops and talks to community members, building strong relationships in the town and reinforcing the locals sense of ownership in the park. He is very well-versed in the history and resources of the park and is a great example of a well-rounded superintendent.

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Stephen McCadden

Lake Guntersville State Park, Alabama

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Stephen David McCadden is held in high regards with his staff, coworker, and our guests. Mr. McCadden has been employed at Lake Guntersville State Park for 14 months. During that time, he has managed the Town Creek Campground, and main campground which had a huge contribution in both facilities making the highest profit within the last ten years.

He is the volunteer coordinator and over inventory at Lake Guntersville State Park. Mr. McCadden has also been a great attribute to law enforcement within the state park system. He currently has the most case numbers out of 19 law enforcement rangers. He is currently certified as a Field Training Officer with the State Parks and is a member of the Alabama Department of Conservation Honor Guard team. Mr. McCadden helps assist park guests in any way he can; from educating to helping a guest during an emergency.

In March 2017, Mr. McCadden was awarded the Life Saver Award. A park guest was attending a fishing tournament at the park when he had a heart attack. Mr. McCadden was on scene and jumped to action. He ran to his patrol vehicle and grabbed an automated external defibrillator (AED). He called for medical assistance, utilized the AED on the park guest and resuscitates the guest, who was then life-flighted to the hospital. Due to his actions, he saved the guests’ life.

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Hallie Oalde

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Florida

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Hallie is the epitome of a park ranger, she wears many hats and does so with a caring, passionate, and humble attitude. Continually asked to do more with less she is responsible for a very high-volume volunteer program at one of the busiest state parks in the state. She has transformed it into a model for the rest of the park service using a common-sense approach and showing care for both the park and her volunteers. She meets and welcomes new volunteers, instituted a training program, has regular get together for them to come together as a team, and conducts exit interviews for each one.

Hallie is also responsible for the interpretive programs at the park, doing reading with a ranger as outreach to local children, organizing events like the Veterans Day event, moonlight lake paddles on the rare coastal dune lakes, Earth Day festival, among many others, and representing the park at local nature festivals. Hallie also heads up cabin support for the 32 cabins in the park, ensuring they are properly staffed and organized so that time and effort are not wasted, she also orders linens and supplies and handles customer complaints (if there are any) swiftly. She does all of this while also handling the regular duties of a ranger, working in the ranger station, checking in campers, handling campground issues, working the window as people come in, answering phones, and communicating effectively with patrons and staff.

She maintains a great attitude even when faced with challenges. Her coworkers recognize her effort and she has made the team stronger. She is a good role model for both new and veteran rangers. Hallie is a model park ranger for the state of Florida, she loves the park service and is passionate about her park. There isn't anyone who knows it better or cares for it more than Hallie Oalde.

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Brian Pinson

Hillsborough River State Park, Florida

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I have been associated with Brian for many years as he moved up the ranks with the Florida State Park System. He completely turned around Highlands Hammock State Park through the very thoughtful use of social media and I am very glad to have him back at Hillsborough River State Park. In the time he has been back, the park has made great strides forward in customer service, guest relations, and event coordination.

His volunteer base is up and he continues to lead with strength and little budget even through Hurricane Irma and recovery. In addition, he travels all over the USA fighting some of the largest fires that develop. His leadership skills are extraordinary. His love of the outdoors, the parks and his job shine through - no matter what situation he finds himself in.

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Dr. Donna Shaver

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

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Dr. Donna Shaver has led the sea turtle conservation and recovery efforts at Padre Island National Seashore for over 30 years. She has dedicated her life to sea turtle conservation and has been instrumental in efforts to save these animals, particularly Kemp's ridleys and greens.

Dr. Shaver began her work with sea turtles as a Student Conservation Association volunteer at Padre Island National Seashore in 1980. She soon discovered a passion for sea turtles and their conservation that would shape the rest of her career. She was a member of the team that conducted the Kemp's Ridley Headstarting and Imprinting Project from 1978-1988. She joined the National Park Service as a Park Technician at Padre Island National Seashore during the summers of 1981-1984 and became a permanent employee in 1985. By 1986, she was leading the park's sea turtle conservation efforts.

In 1993, Dr. Shaver was transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division to serve as Station Leader of the Padre Island Field Research Station. She remained at Padre Island National Seashore as a scientific adviser to the park and a leading researcher on the Kemp's ridley, [until earning her Ph.D. in Zoology from Texas A&M in 2000.] In 2003, she transferred back to the National Park Service and became the Chief of the newly created Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.

Dr. Shaver serves on the Kemp's Ridley Recovery Team. She and her staff members coordinate information on sea turtle nesting in Texas. She is also the Texas State Coordinator for the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN), a national network that tracks sea turtle strandings. Dr. Shaver and Division staff members continue to conduct research to advance sea turtle conservation. They have produced dozens of publications and contributed significantly to sea turtle recovery. Dr. Shaver has even trained her dog, Ridley, to find sea turtle nests!

When Dr. Shaver began her work with sea turtles at Padre Island National Seashore in 1980, only one or two Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests were found on Padre Island each year. Some years none were found. The species was almost gone, and some said it was too late to save them. Today, 50-100 Kemp's ridley nests are found each year in the park, and nesting has spread along the Texas coast. Nesting has also increased in the Kemp's ridley primary nesting grounds in Mexico.

A species that was once thought doomed to extinction was rescued from the brink thanks to decades of work by Dr. Shaver, her team at Padre Island National Seashore, and many local, national, and international partners in the U.S. and Mexico. The Kemp's ridley is not out of danger yet, as evidenced by a recent, unexpected decline after years of increase, but Dr. Shaver's legacy and success can already be seen in the thousands of tiny baby sea turtles released each year at Padre Island National Seashore.

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Carol Windsor

Petrified Forest, Arizona

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Carol Windsor is my choice for Park Ranger of the Year! Carol has worked at the Petrified Forest as a park ranger for the past five years. She started as a teacher/ranger in her first year but as her special abilities became apparent, came a promotion to park guide. Her abilities as an equestrian was instrumental in keeping the mounted Horse Patrol alive and well when the program was under consideration for dissolution.

The Horse Patrol is one of the drawing points at the Petrified Forest, children and even adults love to see the mounted patrols. Many have never had the opportunity to be that “up close” to such beautiful animals. Along with patrols and teaching, Carol also uses the horses to check on fencing and move cattle out of the park. Another fun part of the Horse Patrol is the ability to ride and represent the Forest Service in parades. A lot of care goes into keeping the horses healthy and in top condition; Carol provides this care at the park in the summer and then takes the horses home with her and cares for them throughout the winter months.

Carol also has other duties such as helping at the visitor’s center, providing interpretive services, working concessions, distributing maps and brochures, providing information about the area; or whatever will help visitors have a wonderful and informed park experience. In the off-season, Carol Windsor works as the 3rd through 8th grade Special Education Teacher at Concho Elementary School District in Apache County Arizona.