ARC Salutes Legends Award Winners

Washington, D.C. - Seven outstanding federal managers received Legends Awards from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) during Great Outdoors Week 2007. “It is a pleasure and a real privilege to honor these exceptional individuals,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall. “They are really making a difference as they improve outdoor recreation resources and facilities across the country.”

ARC presents its Legends Awards annually in recognition of the recipients’ successful efforts to enhance outdoor recreation facilities, resources and experiences. Honorees are nominated by the federal agencies that play central roles in providing public recreation opportunities: USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Federal Highway Administration.

The recipients of the 2007 Legends Awards are: Dawn Grafe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Ralph Swain, USDA Forest Service; Jack Van Dop, Federal Highway Administration; Brian Hopkins, Bureau of Land Management; Richard Mellegard, Bureau of Reclamation; Alan Cox, National Park Service; and Keith Beecher, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dawn Grafe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Supervisory Park Ranger at the Oregon Coastal Complex National Wildlife Refuge. Ms. Grafe was the driving force behind the Oregon Coast Birding Trail, which encompasses six refuges that stretch most of the length of the 400-mile Oregon coast. In addition, she secured a Transportation Enhancement Grant of $559,100 for the development of the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Work on the refuge is expected to be completed in 2008, when the refuge will be open to the public for the first time, providing opportunities for wildlife observation and education.

Ralph Swain, USDA Forest Service, is the Wilderness Program Manager for the agency’s Rocky Mountain Region. Mr. Swain created opportunities for the public, user groups, and partner agencies to work together to address the high use of -- and associated damage to-- Colorado's Fourteeners, the 54 mountain peaks in the state reaching elevations of 14,000 feet or more. He coordinated wilderness recreation forums and follow-up field trips focusing on this management challenge. As a result, a team of volunteers came together to develop policy recommendations that have led to management changes. Thanks to Mr. Swain’s efforts, the Fourteeners now enjoy an informed, involved, and supportive constituency that is willing to spend considerable time and energy constructing a shared vision for these special places and helping the Forest Service address significant wilderness recreation management issues.

Jack Van Dop, Federal Highway Administration, has worked for the agency’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division for 14 years, including the last 10 years as a Senior Environmental Specialist. Mr. Van Dop has been the lead official for the environmental review of many complex, high-profile projects, recognized as among the most valuable transportation assets for recreation in the eastern U.S., including the $600 million Great Smoky Mountains North Shore Road and the $300 million Manassas Battlefield bypass project. Mr. Van Dop has consistently demonstrated an outstanding ability to collaborate with many parties and to build consensus, even amid controversy, allowing these significant projects to stay on schedule.

Brian Hopkins, Bureau of Land Management, serves as the Community Planner in the Bureau's Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Field Office. His current assignment is helping pave the way for increased community-based collaboration with recreation-tourism businesses and with local governments, resulting in improved recreation opportunities and participation. He is firmly committed to the collaborative ideal where BLM engages key entities within adjoining communities to capture the rich potential of public lands to improve family and community life while maintaining the distinctive character of public lands recreation settings. His finesse and expertise at working out thorny problems are respected by these communities, which include the world-class destination resorts of Vail/Beaver Creek and Aspen/Snowmass.

Richard Mellegard, Bureau of Reclamation, is an Outdoor Recreation Planner with the agency’s Phoenix, Arizona, Area Office. He has been instrumental in developing some of the most successful public/private partnerships within Reclamation. He also provides oversight to some unique partners with facilities on Reclamation land, including the city of Scottsdale and the PGA, developers and managers of the FBR Open, which enjoys the largest attendance of any golf tournament in the world. Other partners include the Arizona Diamondbacks professional baseball team and the Barrett-Jackson Classic Antique Auto Show, the largest auto show of its type in the world. Recognized as an innovative problem solver, Mr. Mellegard has been asked to participate in multiple organizations to plan future recreation facilities. He has helped leverage cost-sharing funds that, in many cases, have been the determining factor in such facilities becoming a reality.

Alan Cox, National Park Service, is currently the Superintendent of the Amistad National Recreation Area in southwest Texas. There, working with many partners, he created the "KEY" Project (Knowledge Enriching Youth) that provides unparalleled recreational/educational opportunities -- including a “Lessons on the Lake” houseboat field trip -- to all grade school level students in the local school district. Over 6,000 students have been involved in the past two years alone. He also established the “Trails & Rails” program, where volunteers provide on-board educational programs,highlighting natural, historical and cultural resources, for Amtrak passengers as they travel through the area. The program has reached 70,000 nontraditional visitors to date. Visitors have also benefited from the dramatic expansion of the Recreation Area’s Visitor Contact space where orientation and interpretive information is now available.

Keith Beecher, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has spent his career in New England working for three major field units -- the Cape Cod Canal, the Naugatuck and the Thames River Basins. Currently serving as Park Manager for East Brimfield Lake/Westville Lake/ Conant Brook Dam, Mr. Beecher developed a team of partners who enthusiastically and successfully championed the reuse as a trail of a Massachusetts rail bed abandoned for over 80 years. As a result of the team’s work, trails in the adjacent towns of Southbridge and Sturbridge were connected with three miles of rail-trail on Corps lands. The triumph of this partnership effort led to a successful application by local officials for $560,000 in U.S. Department of Transportation funding, which will be used for trail expansion. The rail-trail promises to become an economic engine for the region.

The American Recreation Coalition annually honors one individual from each major recreation-related federal agency during Great Outdoors Week in Washington, D.C. The Legends Awards are presented to recognize extraordinary individual efforts that have expanded and enhanced recreational opportunities through public/private partnerships, or have increased participation in outdoor recreation through innovative programs based upon public/private partnerships. Award criteria include: quantifiable improvements in recreation opportunities or participation in recreation by one or more categories of the American public labeled “non-traditional visitors”; reliance upon partnerships with for-profit and nonprofit organizations in the private sector; the use of creative solutions and programs; demonstrated efforts to share news of creative solutions within the agency; and community support for the work of this individual, as reflected in awards and roles on community boards and committees.

The 2007 Legends Award ceremony took place on Tuesday, June 12, during a special function featuring key officials from the Executive Branch. The honorees were also showcased during the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award Celebration later that same day.

To see a photo slide show of the Legends Award Ceremony, click here.