Alabama State Parks honors 8 park champions

Winners of the 2024 Eagle Awards (Alabama State Park)

Alabama State Parks honored 8 park champions at their 8th Annual Eagle Awards ceremony at Lake Guntersville this weekend. 

The prestigious award recognizes people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in support of Alabama State Parks. This year’s winners ranged from Alabama’s Lt. Governor to a renowned environmental educator.

Eagle Awards: Recognizing State Park champions

“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.” 

~ Chris Blankenship, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 

Who are this year’s State Park champions? Drumroll please…

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (Elected Official): 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, as he presided over the Senate’s Alabama State Parks Bond Amendment consideration and vote.

State Rep. Danny Crawford, of Athens (Elected Official): Crawford, of Athens, serves with commitment and excellence in his role as Chairman for the Joint Legislative Committee on State Parks. Recently he has hosted multiple legislative events at Lake Guntersville, Monte Sano and Gulf. The events have also helped legislators to understand first-hand our parks’ unique and critical needs.

Kendra Glover (Youth Category): Glover, a freshman at Albertville High School, volunteers at Lake Guntersville State Park alongside 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. 

Jackson Colley (Youth Category): 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 located 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. 

Raptor Ridge Wildlife Education (Community Partner): This nonprofit organization, 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. 

Dan Hendricks (Parks Partner): In 2018, Shoals resident Hendricks helped create and launch the Alabama State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fundraising and other support of the State Parks System. He became the organization’s first president and served through January 2024. 

Emily Duke (Volunteers In Parks): Duke has been involved in birds of prey presentations at Chewacla State Park and Wind Creek State Park. She also serves as a bird handler during Eagle Awareness programs at Lake Guntersville State Park.

Jimmy and Sierra Stiles. (Alabama State Parks)

Jimmy Stiles (Volunteers In Parks): A legend in Alabama’s environmental education circles, Stiles volunteers and provides education programs free of charge to the public in herpetology, prescribed fires and ecosystem management. He also helps state park staff learn about safe and effective venomous snake handling and removal. 

Honoring Tourism’s Lee Sentell and unveiling an eagle statue

Alabama State Parks
New eagle statue at the Lake Guntersville Lodge (Alabama State Parks)

In addition to the volunteer and advocacy awards, Alabama State Parks presented Alabama State Parks Tourism Director Lee Sentell an Outstanding Service Award for his two decades of steadfast support of Alabama’s 21 State Parks. 

Along with the awards ceremony, State Parks also unveiled and dedicated at Lake Guntersville State Park an eagle statue celebrating 39 years of Eagle Awareness weekend events and restoration of our national symbol in Alabama. 

Are you a supporter of Alabama State Parks? Tell us — of the 21 parks — which is your favorite? Tell us by tagging us on social media at @bhamnow

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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