Alabama State Parks honored eight Eagle Award winners and the Outstanding Service Award for 2024 during Eagle Award Weekend events at Lake Guntersville State Park.
Now in its eighth year, the Eagle Awards – sponsored by the Alabama State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) – honor people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in support of Alabama State Parks. For 2024, eight winners were selected from submitted nominations. Additionally, the Outstanding Service Award signifies a legacy of steadfast support of Alabama’s 21 State Parks.
“Our Alabama State Parks attract millions of visitors each year, and that wouldn’t be possible without the enormous contributions made by volunteers, elected officials and community partners who help us provide programs and recreational activities year-round,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “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.”
This year’s Eagle Award winners are:
1 - Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (Elected Official)
2 - State Rep. Danny Crawford, Athens (Elected Official)
3 - Kendra Glover (Youth Category)
4 - Jackson Colley (Youth Category)
5 - Raptor Ridge Wildlife Education (Community Partner)
6 - Dan Hendricks, Alabama State Parks Foundation (Parks Partner)
7 - Emily Duke (Volunteers in Parks)
8 - Jimmy Stiles (Volunteers in Parks)
Alabama State Parks also presented the Outstanding Service Award to Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell for his steadfast support of Alabama’s 21 State Parks. Director Sentell's contributions to Alabama State Parks touch every park in our system and are valued across the park system and the State of Alabama.
Here’s a closer look at each Eagle Award winner, too:
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.
The Senate went on to give overwhelming support to the amendment – and an enthusiastic Alabama public did as well. Ainsworth is a frequent and popular guest speaker at conferences and meetings at Gulf State Park Lodge & Conference Center, where he effectively uses every opportunity to underscore the unique beauty and features of The Lodge at Gulf State Park and its role in drawing a great variety of entities to our beautiful state for their meeting and conference needs.
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. He takes his duties for our Alabama State Parks very seriously, including taking the initiative to host multiple legislative events at our parks – at Lake Guntersville, Monte Sano and Gulf.
These events have helped the State Parks Committee – as well as all legislators – better understand how very important our State Parks are to our citizens’ and guests’ outdoor recreation opportunities and health needs, as well as to tourism in our great state. 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, 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. A Florence resident, he remains a member of the ASPF Board of Directors.
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. She has partnered with a number of organizations, including Raptor Ridge Wildlife Education, Rise Raptor Project and Wings to Soar, to promote environmental stewardship.
Jimmy Stiles (Volunteers In Parks): A legend in Alabama’s environmental education circles, Stiles volunteered and provided education programs at Eagle Awareness Weekends from 1988 to 2000. He provided programming free of charge to the public on topics such as herpetology, prescribed fires and ecosystem management, and he also has led risk management programming for park personnel to highlight safe and effective venomous snake handling and removal.
Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein thanked each award winner for contributing to the State Parks System’s success. “We have a simple slogan: ‘Partners pay the way,’” Lein said, “and the Eagle Award winners truly are partners in every way possible. We thank them for giving their time and talent to our state parks, and we’re honored that they work to make our parks better than ever.”