State Parks Recognize Employees, Volunteers For Service

Mar 27, 2023

The Department of Natural Resources' Division of State Parks recently honored its volunteers, partners, and employees for their commitment to conserve, manage, and interpret resources while creating memorable experiences for visitors in 2022.

Awards were announced at the division’s annual leadership conference, which was held at Brown County State Park. Outstanding Volunteer Awards recognize the work of individuals who share their time and expertise at Indiana State Park properties. Three individuals were honored for their service:

  • Phil and Marcia Douglass first came to Indiana State Parks in 2011 when they enrolled in an Indiana Master Naturalist class. There they were introduced to the campground host program. The Douglass family has hosted at Ouabache, Mounds, Turkey Run, and Clifty Falls state parks, Brookville Lake, and several other locations over the years.
  • Ray Meyer began volunteering at Mounds State Park three years ago. His leadership organizing the Friends of Mounds State Park’s Nights of Lights holiday fundraising event has helped raise more than $30,000 in the last two years. Around 60 community organizations came together to decorate the campground for the 2022 event.

Indiana State Parks also recognized volunteers who have each contributed more than 2,500 hours of service: Carol Arena, Jerry Byard, Kate Bell, Ray Meyer, and Loretta Heiniger from Mounds State Park; Bruce Fisher, Christine Fisher, Bob Bradley, Karen Pierce, Frank Dumond, and Ralph Jackson from O’Bannon Woods State Park; Kathy Schwartz, Kraig Schwartz, Jim Grover, and Dan Allen from Ouabache State Park; and Bruce Miller from Starve Hollow State Recreation Area.

Partnership Awards recognize cooperative efforts between a property and a community organization that support projects and facilities to serve property guests. Two were presented for 2022:

  • The RV Industry Association brought 400 volunteers from more than 40 companies to Potato Creek State Park. In a single day, they constructed a program area with a stage and 24 benches at the park’s nature center, built a new footbridge to the park’s fish cleaning station, re-sided and repainted comfort stations, collected more than 50 trash bags of garlic mustard; completed trail trimming work and picked up trash, and installed new sand on the playgrounds.
  • The Friends of Tippecanoe River State Park raised funds to build a 32-foot bridge connecting trails 3 and 5. This new trail connector provides hikers and runners at the park with many different options for trail routes of varied lengths.

Spring Mill State Park and Spring Mill Inn staff were honored with the Property Achievement Award for meeting several unique challenges in 2022. Staff found ways to offer high-quality experiences at the park’s Pioneer Village while interpreting an inoperable historic grist mill and worked tirelessly to completely clear and close Spring Mill Inn for the major renovation now underway.

The Indiana State Parks Fleet Team received the Innovation and Leadership Award. Members were tasked with identifying needs and planning for vehicle purchases for the division during the supply chain challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to their regular duties in property management.

Ben Clark received the Natural and Cultural Resources Stewardship Award for his tireless work in leading Indiana State Parks’ management of historic and cultural resources. Clark’s work includes research, statewide history education initiatives, and serving as the liaison with DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology to ensure that all state park properties remain in compliance with state and federal historic preservation laws. 

Matt Pore, project manager in The Department of Natural Resources' Division of Engineering, was presented with a Director’s Award for his leadership in developing the preliminary design for The Lodge at Potato Creek, guiding the master planning for the George Rogers Clark Homesite, and coordinating the renovation planning for Spring Mill Inn along with numerous other projects he has supported for Indiana State Parks. Awards were also presented to several individual employees for outstanding work.

  • Matt Taylor was recognized with the Tulip Tree Award, the highest honor the division bestows on one person. In addition to his daily responsibilities as property manager at Hardy Lake, Matt has managed Indiana State Parks’ fleet and equipment inventories, metrics, and division-wide refresh efforts that are critical for the success of Indiana State Parks and the Indiana State Park Inns.
  • Willie Westmoreland was recognized as the Inn Field Employee of the Year for his excellent guest service at Clifty Inn. His helpful nature and positive attitude continue to cement and foster the values of teamwork and cooperation at Clifty Inn.
  • Howard Draving was recognized as the State Park Field Employee of the Year for his leadership and service at Mississinewa Lake. Howard has led several large maintenance projects, supervised a $40,000 remodel of a new service area shop, designed and constructed Mississinewa’s new selfie photo backdrop, and developed new full-hookup campsite upgrades.
  • Tom Peet was honored as the Inn Employee of the Year. He has served in several vital roles during his 11-year tenure, including his current assignment as special projects manager. He is frequently called upon to lead high profile initiatives that are essential to the overall success of Indiana State Park Inns.
  • Sierra Jackson received the Intermittent Employee of the Year award for her work at Starve Hollow State Recreation Area. She coordinated staff and volunteers for Halloween Weekend and Christmas Lights in the Campground, creating two great signature events for Starve Hollow SRA.
  • Jarrett Manek was recognized as the Interpretive Naturalist of the Year for his leadership of nearly 2,000 volunteers at O’Bannon Woods State Park, his role in replacing the floor of the historic haypress barn, and his continued education and outreach work, including the training of two young Durham oxen that will operate the haypress.
  • Tiffany Thompson was recognized as the Office Manager of the Year. She maintains valuable relationships with staff and the community. Her oversight and leadership of gate and camp store operations exemplify the service state park style initiative.
  • Nick Brown was honored as the Assistant Property Manager of the Year for his leadership at Pokagon State Park and his supervision of the toboggan run. He takes personal responsibility and pride in preparing the track for daily operations.
  • Mark Young was named Property Manager of the Year for on-site leadership in planning for the renovation of Spring Mill Inn and the park’s Pioneer Village gristmill, development of full-hookup sites in a loop of the campground, and work with Indiana University’s Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands to develop training for staff in providing barrier free recreational experiences in Indiana State Parks for guests.
  • Chris Fouke, sales director for the Indiana State Park Inns Authority, received the Hospitality Award for his efforts in organizing and leading the many events for groups that Indiana State Park Inns hosts with service and heart.

Photos of the award winners are available per request. To view more DNR news releases, please see