Interpretive efforts of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers are nationally recognized by the presentation of the Hiram M. Chittenden Award for Excellence in Interpretation. This year, park ranger Tracy Spry from Rock Island District’s Lake Red Rock was chosen as the recipient of this prestigious award. This will be the first time, since the award was created, that a member of the Rock Island District has received the award.
In 2014, Spry was instrumental in developing, organizing and coordinating the implementation of several new interpretive outreach programs and events. She personally presented more than a hundred interpretive programs to nearly 3,000 participants and mentored a college intern who provided programming to an additional 670 people.
Every year Spry is involved in a variety of outdoor and environmental education events such as the Junior Ranger program, water safety outreach programs and visitor center programming. Her efforts this year also included the design and creation of Lake Red Rock’s first natural playscape, a playground designed with natural elements to engage children with the natural world around them. Development and funding for the playscape required extensive coordination with local private industry including 3M Corporation and Vermeer Manufacturing as well as the Red Rock Lake Association and Central College.
In the local community, Spry is actively involved in outreach programs that give people of all ages a better understanding of Lake Red Rock’s missions including flood risk management, environmental stewardship and recreation. Last year, Spry also coordinated with professors from Central College to help local kindergarten through eighth grade teachers learn how to incorporate science, technology, engineering and math into their everyday curriculums at the Teach-the-Teacher STEM workshop.
"Tracy’s personal investment of time and energy has an exponential impact on the community because she mentors teachers and professors who subsequently inspire and motivate their students," said Cheri Doane, director of community-based learning at Central College in Pella, Iowa.
Other outreach interpretive efforts Spry has been instrumental in starting include guided paddle excursions that take visitors to Lake Red Rock’s only paddle-in campground and a Trail Trekkers Passport Program where she partnered with local community members and the Lake Red Rock Association to encourage visitors to explore the many hiking trails around the lake.
Spry, a 22-year veteran of the park ranger field, was nominated for the Hiram M. Chittenden Award by Junifer Kruse who has been working with Spry for many years. Once selected by the District to be presented at the Division level, Spry’s nomination moved on to Corps Headquarters where she was selected by Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as this year’s winner.
"Tracy provides outstanding customer service to all she comes in contact with and is the face of Lake Red Rock to the citizens and visitors of the area," said Kruse. "Her integrity, honesty and moral compass are truly an asset for Lake Red Rock, the Rock Island District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."