June 3, 2016 - Laurie Gonzales, a wildlife biologist at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX, is the winner of the 2016 Legends Award, honoring outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation opportunities. Richard Easterbrook, the National Inventory and Monitoring team leader for geographic information systems (GIS) in Fort Collins, CO, won the Beacon Ward for innovative use of technology. The American Recreation Coalition selects the award winners.
Gonzales was recognized for her work on a 38.5-mile hiking, biking and paddling project, “From Crosswalks to Boardwalks,” that connects the refuge to neighboring Liberty, TX. In 2010 Gonzales recognized that the refuge and the City of Liberty could partner on an outdoor recreational network to connect the public with nature. The goal was to bring together 29 miles of hiking trails, 4.5 miles of paddling trails and 5 miles of bicycle routes that the public could use 3,000 acres of the refuge and within the city. Most recently, the Friends of Trinity River Refuge partnered with the AFL-CIO Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to build a boardwalk across 500 feet of wetlands to link the city and the refuge.
Easterbrook helped develop an accurate spatial data layer that identifies the hundreds of visitor center and contact stations throughout the Refuge System. Spatial data drive the GIS, which is the basis of location-enabled services on computers and smartphones. Easterbrook took the initiative to validate and collect information that pinpoints the locations of educational kiosks, visitor centers and contact stations on maps the public can use and find online.
The awards were presented at the American Recreation Coalition’s Great Outdoors Week events in Washington, DC.