ARC Salutes 2009 Legends Award Winners

Washington, D.C. — The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) presented its 2009 Legends Awards to seven federal managers in recognition of their outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people. The awards were presented on June 9, 2009 during Great Outdoors Week – ARC’s celebration of the value and importance of outdoor recreation. Initiated by ARC in 1991, the Legends Award program involves seven federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Each agency nominates an individual whose extraordinary personal efforts have made a real difference in enhancing outdoor recreation programs and resources.

Recipients of the 2009 Legends Awards are: James Jennings, Bureau of Land Management; Jay Leasure, Bureau of Reclamation; Dan Johnson, Federal Highway Administration; Christopher K. Jarvi, National Park Service; Miles Johnson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Kelly Blackledge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Laurie A. Thorpe, U.S. Forest Service.

James Jennings has served as an Outdoor Recreation Planner with the Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop, California, Field Office for two decades, with an additional decade of service in other BLM offices throughout California. He has used an integrated community approach to organize different recreation groups into coherent community stewardship groups to improve public land health in the eastern Sierra. Jim formed essential partnerships to create a national award-winning motor-touring guide. He was instrumental in developing vehicle-use designations using the Semi-Primitive component of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) concept to craft a strategic compromise that all parties ultimately honored and implemented. Jim provided leadership for the recreation phenomenon “bouldering” – free climbing huge boulders – that had overwhelmed the area outside Bishop. He galvanized a diverse group of local climbers to form an activist group and steered them to take direct action themselves to care for public land resources. Using the Semi-Primitive ROS concept initiated for vehicle-use designations, he framed a user ethics strategy with accompanying flyers, media releases, meetings and more. He also converted (with no money) an abandoned quarry pit to a primitive campground, which now accommodates some 20,000 campers per year, mostly climbers.

Jay Leasure is a Natural Resource Specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Nebraska Kansas Area Office, where he is responsible for the management and administration of recreation and natural resources at 13 reservoirs. Jay has been instrumental in helping Reclamation’s local management partners bring their recreation facilities up to accessibility standards. Numerous retrofits and new construction have been completed, like leveling walkways and installing new camping pads and full-service shower houses. Jay has also assisted the partners in prioritizing projects and obtaining funds for the construction of new recreation facilities and the enhancement of existing infrastructure like roads and boat launch ramps. His efforts have also met with success in the health and safety arena. Responsible for coordinating annual health and safety inspections of recreation and concession areas, Jay utilized an inspection process that brought together the partners, concessionaires, and state and local regulatory agencies, resulting in the identification and remediation of numerous health and safety issues.

Dan Johnson served as Environmental Program Manager for the DelMar Division of the Federal Highway Administration’s Maryland Office from 2003 until recently moving to FHWA’s Resource Center in Baltimore as a Senior Environmental Specialist. He has worked effectively with state partners and federal agencies to promote FHWA programs like National Scenic Byways, Recreational Trails and Transportation Enhancements (TE), directly contributing to new, preserved and improved recreational facilities serving the traveling public. Much of the $100 million for recreational facilities and wildlife habitat in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Reconstruction project was due to Dan’s contributions to the team. He worked closely with the State Highway Administration (SHA) to apply the concept of “Environmental Stewardship” to the Inter-County Connector project, which now includes a number of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and rehabilitation of cultural resources. His work with SHA also enhanced Maryland’s ability to construct transportation facilities while protecting cultural resources and recreational facilities, which resulted in SHA policies that make Maryland a national leader in context-sensitive solutions for Scenic Byways and historic national roads, the use of TE funds for wildlife-related projects, and the reconstruction of major arterial highways using “Green Highway” techniques.

Christopher K. Jarvi is the National Park Service’s Associate Director for Partnerships and Visitor Experience. Under his leadership, an extensive civic-engagement process was undertaken to help NPS affirm its longstanding commitment to philanthropic support of national parks, resulting in a revised policy that affirms philanthropic support while protecting the integrity of the national parks. To expand the Service’s outreach to young people, Chris initiated and staffed a new partnership with the National Association of State Park Directors that included the creation of a database of state and national children’s programs, as well as the framework for a national “Children in Nature” campaign, leading seven federal agencies, all 50 states, and county and city governments to adopt a nationwide approach to connecting children with nature. He reinvigorated the agency’s Youth Program Division, providing leadership for new programs with the Student Conservation Association, the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America. Chris also led efforts to develop a new strategic plan for tourism in the national parks – working with tourism and hospitality industry leaders – and a new plan to expand and improve the Service’s Volunteers in Parks program, which now contributes over five million hours of service to the national parks.

Miles Johnson is the acting Chief of the Russellville Project Office in the Little Rock District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he is responsible for directing the operations of Civil Works projects at six lock and dam facilities, including 54 recreational areas with management control of nearly 4,500 acres of public land along 182 miles of the Arkansas River. His successful career in the Corps covers 30 years of faithful public service and creative efforts to improve recreational opportunities and facilities for the public. Miles has been a champion for outdoor recreation and natural resources management, and his innovative leadership has led to many successes, including: the creation of volunteer campsites to support campground hosts and volunteers; the development of bicycle trails that increased visitation and reduced vandalism; the creation of Challenge Partnership Agreements with local communities to operate recreation areas that had been closed; the expansion of boating facilities and hunting areas in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; the initiation of a partnership with the University of Arkansas School for Medical Science to develop campsites for patients seeking specialized care; and the implementation of listening sessions to engage park visitors to identify and help resolve management challenges.

Kelly Blackledge is the Visitor Services Manager at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Minnesota. Kelly has worked with nonprofit organizations, businesses and other agencies to promote birding at Tamarac and other wildlife refuge system lands in the area. Thanks to her efforts, which include regular appearances on local TV and radio stations, the Detroit Lakes/Tamarac Refuge area has become a destination for birders around the country. Last year, the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce honored Kelly with its Tourism Award. For the past six years, she has co-chaired the Detroit Lakes Festival of the Birds, which focuses not only on outstanding bird-viewing opportunities but also on local conservation issues and challenges, and is considered one of the premier birding festivals in the state. Under her leadership, the refuge’s environmental education program has expanded significantly and the refuge has been identified as an exceptional location for environmental education programs targeting children in kindergarten and first, third and seventh grades. Tamarac could not offer these activities without help from the volunteers whom Kelly has been instrumental in recruiting, developing and encouraging.

Laurie A. Thorpe is the Team Leader of Independent Resources, part of the Forest Service’s innovative Enterprise Program. She started her Forest Service career in 1974 as a Youth Conservation Corps enrollee on the Pike National Forest in Colorado. In the 1990s, she was a champion of community engagement and building local partnerships under the Northwest Forest Plan. After succeeding as a District Ranger, Laurie stepped into the world of agency entrepreneurship to help national forests across the country discover, take pride in and enhance what is best and most vital in their recreation programs. Her team pioneered the award-winning Recreation Facility Analysis process, assisting forests in prioritizing their recreation facility investments. She recently introduced “Systems Thinking” to the recreation program, applying state-of-the-art analysis to help understand and solve some of the most difficult dilemmas in recreation management. Now, as acting Director of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources in the Southwestern Region, she is integrating recreation into the mission of the agency by providing ideas, resources and support for the National Recreation Strategy and its cornerstone goals of “Renewing Body and Spirit and Inspiring Passion for the Land.”

For more information about the 2009 Legends Awards or other aspects of Great Outdoors Week, contact the American Recreation Coalition at 202-682-9530 or