The Bureau of Reclamation is proud to recognize Valerie Heath-Harrison from the Upper Colorado Regional Office as the agency’s 2020 Legends Award winner. Over the last 18 years as an Outdoor Recreation Planner, Valerie has obtained vast knowledge and experience in administering Reclamation recreation management programs. She is confident and competent, which enables her to quickly assess the situation, come up with a plan, communicate that plan to others and execute the plan successfully.
Valerie’s work with the C.A.S.T. (Catch A Special Thrill) for Kids Foundation exemplifies her dedication to providing outdoor recreation experiences. C.A.S.T. joins volunteers who love to fish with children with disabilities and children who experience disadvantages for a day of fishing in the outdoors. In the Upper Colorado Region, Reclamation hosts the event, provides most of the funding and coordinates the event with a local coordinator, if available. Valerie, with the assistance of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, has worked tirelessly over the last four years to find, recruit and train new coordinators as older coordinators dropped out of the program due to retirement or time constraints. Over the last 12 years, Valerie has worked with Reclamation staff as well as volunteers from surrounding communities to host 51 C.A.S.T. Events. Because of her major contributions to making these events happen, more than 1,157 children with disabilities or children who experience disadvantages in their lives had access to enjoy outdoor recreation at Reclamation’s beautiful reservoirs on a day set aside especially for them and their families. Without her dedication, these events would not have taken place in the Upper Colorado Region which spans Utah, parts of Southwestern Wyoming, Western Colorado, Northern Arizona, most of New Mexico and part of southwestern Texas.
Because of her efforts over the last four years as Lead Recreation Planner for the Upper Colorado Basin, new or improved facilities were constructed/rehabilitated at several reservoirs throughout the region and the effort is ongoing. Valerie is also serving as the Regional Accessibility Coordinator, and has done so for the past 22 years. She has acted as the regional representative for the Reclamation-wide and Interior-wide policy team for Reclamation’s Recreation and Concessions Management Program and has also served as a technical coordinator on Interior’s youth program initiatives, such as “Every Kid In A Park” and employment initiatives for young adults by serving on the Technical Review Committee for the latest series of youth hiring contracts, which includes intern opportunities and crew opportunities for field work. Her dedication is a credit to the entire Bureau. Valerie is a true Legend.
The U.S. Forest Service is proud to honor Martha Williamson from the Rio Grande National Forest as our 2020 Legends Award recipient. For close to 15 years, Martha has provided forward-thinking leadership in which she has championed the multiple-use mission of the USDA Forest Service – fostering and planning for steady increases in recreational uses on the District while fully supporting very active range and timber management programs. Martha’s dedication to encouraging diverse user groups to come together to create stronger partnerships, increasing public participation in the recreation planning process, and simply encouraging and providing opportunities for people to get to know one another on a personal basis has built and strengthened relationships and partnerships between local communities and the Forest Service.
In her innovation, solving some of the key challenges facing outdoor recreation on the District, Martha builds trust and understanding between the District, increases outdoor recreational interest and use in the community, and cultivates partnerships. Martha’s motto, “Just be nice to one another,” has established an atmosphere of respect and kindness in the local community that cannot be easily quantified, but is demonstrated in how she navigates the challenges of maintaining and improving recreational experiences and supporting local communities that depend upon the Forest Service to provide sustainable recreation opportunities.
Martha, through her poise and proficiency in communicating her intent, and while expressing her understanding of concerns raised by others, has built a strong partnership network with county commissioners, outdoor recreation clubs, volunteer groups, non-profit organizations, stakeholders, permittees, cooperating agencies, and most importantly, the people who enjoy and utilize public lands. Martha’s holistic approach to developing and managing positive relationships begins in the pre-NEPA and NEPA planning processes and carries through with full integrity into the implementation and monitoring phases.
Martha’s effort to build relationships and diverse partnerships while improving recreation opportunities and strategically resolving existing and new challenges along the way highlight her energy, enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication to bringing people together.
Martha’s extraordinary effort to expand and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities encourages a connection to public lands for all ages of people, and increases partnerships in recreation. Her innovative leadership and dedication to enhancing and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities across public lands exemplifies the purpose and selection criteria for the Legends Award.
Ms. Patricia (Patti) Williams has served to benefit the USACE Recreation Program since her first position as the Natural Resource Manager at Dewey Lake in 1986 until today, where she serves as Northwestern Division’s Natural Resource Management/Environmental Compliance Program Manager. Ms. Williams serves as a beacon for change and progress for recreation management in USACE. Early in her career, she saw and addressed visitor needs. She implemented alcohol bans and mandatory PFD wear for children 12 and under, educating the recreating public and addressing historic high drowning rates and visitor/ranger safety issues. This work served as a foundation throughout her 30+ year career of enhancing and improving recreation opportunities for the visitors to Corps parks and facilities. Ms. Williams shines as an extraordinary leader in outdoor recreation through innovative partnerships and programs and by sharing these advances across her projects, districts, and division and within USACE. Many look to her as a mentor and seek her advice and counsel when evaluating management decisions at their location.
Ms. Williams is a true professional and outstanding ambassador for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Program. She serves as a national leader and innovative thinker. Through creative partnerships, stakeholder collaboration and thoughtful leadership, she leads the organization in offering the best possible Corps of Engineers recreational opportunities to the visiting public. Ms. Williams’ guidance and recommendations are highly respected and sought out by the Corps at all levels. Her selfless service, tenacious spirit and passion for the Corps’ Recreation Program distinguish her as a Recreation and Land Management leader nationally. These qualities and her many accomplishments reflect great credit upon Ms. Williams, Northwestern Division and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.