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Press Release

The Alabama V.I.P. Program Takes Pride in State Parks

February 10, 2004

Read the Outdoor Alabama article on VIP Program

The Alabama State Parks volunteer program stepped up to a new level bringing it into association with the national Take Pride in America program. The national partnership was announced by Governor Bob Riley on February 9, 2004, at a press conference in Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham. Also participating in the announcement were First Lady Patsy Riley; Marti Allbright, executive director of Take Pride in America; M. Barnett Lawley, Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Mark Easterwood, Director of the Alabama State Parks Division.

The Alabama State Parks system has welcomed volunteers in the past, but this is the first time the State Parks Division has launched a uniform statewide volunteer program. The new Volunteers In Parks (V.I.P.) program offers different levels of volunteer opportunities within the state parks system, with similar duties and work at each of the parks. A V.I.P. handbook details the mission and types of work conducted by volunteers, as well as the application process and agreement.

“The parks belong to us, and it is our duty and responsibility to take care of public lands,” said Marti Allbright, Executive Director of Take Pride in America. “Alabama’s V.I.P. program offers an opportunity for citizens to demonstrate good stewardship.”

Mark Easterwood, Director of the Alabama State Parks Division, praised the work of volunteers. He presented a Certificate of Appreciation award to Les Miller, calling him an outstanding friend of Oak Mountain State Park for his 23 years of volunteer service. Miller, who still takes an active part in leading outdoor walks, challenged the audience to get involved. He especially targeted the 19-35 age group. “These are the people who will save our parks so they will be here for our children and grandchildren.”

Conservation Commissioner M. Barnett Lawley stated, “Governor Riley has emphasized that we should always do the right thing, and participation in the TPIA program is the right thing.”

“It’s easy to get involved,” said Governor Riley. “There are so many things that we can do to take care of our lands. Anyone who visits a state park one or two times a year should volunteer.”

Easterwood concluded the press briefing, “By becoming a V.I.P., you’re taking pride in Alabama, and taking pride in America.”

Following the announcement, Governor Riley, Mrs. Riley, Ms. Allbright, Easterwood, and others prepared and planted a wildflower area near the entrance of the park.

The Take Pride in America program aims to seek, support, and recognize volunteers who work to improve our national parks, forests, grasslands and wildlife refuges, public lands, cultural and historic sites, playgrounds and other recreational areas. The TPIA program, established by the U.S. Department of the Interior, calls on citizens and communities to demonstrate local pride, initiative, and stewardship.

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