Director's Recognition Awards   |  Award Categories & Descriptions   |  Award Sponsors   |  19th Annual Director's Recognition Awards  

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View Ceremony Program (PDF/Printable Version)

Adaptation Award

Recognizes those who have taken remarkable steps in preparing for and protecting against the adverse and imminent consequences of climate change.

San Buenaventura State Beach Boardwalk Crew 

Channel Coast District

This award recognizes the San Buenaventura State Beach Boardwalk Crew for their hard work and dedication while restoring natural dune formation processes and visitor access points.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Ingenuity Award

Recognizes craftmanship and expert application of hands-on technique.

Information Technology (IT) Help Desk

Administrative Services Division 

This award recognizes the Information Technology Help Desk for their significant improvements to telecommunications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Innovation Award

Recognizes those who have found new and exciting ways to respond to changes and accomplish the despartments mission.

Geographic Information System Application Engineers

Seth Paine, Strategic Planning and Recreation Services Division 

Daniel Walsh, Strategic Planning and Recreation Services Division

Jeff Ebner, San Luis Obispo Coast District 

Nathanial Wigington, Central Valley District

This award recognizes the geographic information system application engineers who developed dashboards during the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfire season. Their work will not only assist in future data collection and planning, but will also play a crucial role in the wildfire recovery process.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Inspiration Award

Recognizes an individual or team who has inspired public support and successfully achieved a major public objective.

Communications and Marketing Division 

This award recognizes the Communications and Marketing Division for providing the best communications possible for the public and the media, especially during critical times. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Leadership and Vision Award

This award recognizes an individual or team who has demonstrated a keen ability to lead and motivate others to positive action, and has exhibited vision and an understanding of the physical and psychological importance of the park experience to urban dwellers. 

Victor Bjelajac

North Coast Redwoods District Superintendent 

District Superintendent Victor Bjelajac has demonstrated the ability motivate and inspire others to positive action by reorganizing and rededicating the North Coast Redwoods District to build a more resilient and equitable foundation. His commitment to working collaboratively with local institutions is helping make the district’s parks relevant to a new generation of visitors. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Partnership Award

Recognizes partners—support organizations, teams or individuals—who have demonstrated a high level of commitment over a substantial period of time toward accomplishing department's mission.

Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers Cooperating Association 

Monterey District 

This award recognizes the Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers Cooperating Assocation for their long-term commitment and dedication in supporting Point Sur State Historic Park. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Professional Integrity Award

Recognizes employees who have demonstrated a high degree of honesty, integrity and idealism in the face of adverse pressure.

Brian Ketterer

Park and Recreation Services Division 

This award recognizes Brian Ketterer, Central Division Chief, for his statewide coordination, drive, and dedication in coordinating the Department's Operations Center, known as the DOC, during the pandemic and 2020 wildfire season. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Resilience Award

Honors an indivdiual or team who tirelessly and valiantly rose to enormous challenges during an emergency response situation and/or recovery effort.

Jason Hart – Bay Area District; Brandon Burrell, Prestin Gelhaus, Justin LaMarsh, and Joshua Litzner – Central Valley District; Matt Cunningham, Mateo Freques, Brian Johnson, and Alex Johnson – San Luis Obispo Coast District

This group was recognized for their bravery and selflessness when responding to the Glass Fire at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park. Through selfless courage and commitment, they successfully protected park resources.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Santa Cruz District Roads and Trails Program and Statewide Roads and Trails Program

This award recognizes Roads and Trails Program staff, at the Santa Cruz District and Statewide level, for collaboratively strategizing the navigation of impacted areas of Big Basin Redwoods State Park to provide road and trail damage assessments after the CZU Lightning Complex fire in August 2020. Their role continues to be crucial in rebuilding these iconic roads and trail systems.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

 Santa Cruz District Resource Advisors 

This award recognizes the Santa Cruz District Resource Advisors for working tirelessly to protect park resources by articulating effective fire-control alternatives and insisting on control methods that limited park impacts during the CZU Lightning Complex fire in August 2020.

 Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Northern Buttes District 

This award recognizes the Northern Buttes District for the many challenges they have overcome in recent years. 

 Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Trailblazer Award

Recognizes those who have intorduced new ideas or methods to accomplish the mission of State Parks or pioneered ways to introduce the public to California's outdoors.

Department Operations Center (DOC)

This award recognizes State Parks staff who ran the first statewide Department Operations Center (DOC)during the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfire season. Their strength and determination to be present each day at the DOC was vital in operational continuity.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Special Commendation Awards

Recognizes employees who have made a significant contribution by going above and beyond the norm and made a substantial impact. 

Ben Fenkell

Interpretation and Education Division 

This special posthumous recognition honors Ben Fenkell, who throughout his 20 years with California State Parks inspired thousands of children and visitors by helping them to discover the stories of California.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Brian Flynn 

Orange Coast District 

Brian is recognized for his commitment as a State Parks volunteer at Crystal Cove State Park for more than 20 years.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Dual Language Virtual Junior Ranger Program Team  

Various Districts 

This team is recognized for their creation of the multipark dual language program—the first ever in State Parks history. The Dual Language Virtual Junior Rangers Adventure video series was filmed at various California state parks, covering a variety of topics in both Spanish and English. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Reclaiming Emma Wood State Beach Team  

Channel Coast District 

This team is recognized for working to eradicate invasive species, reduce fire fuel , and remove illegal encampments at the park unit. Their work has resulted in improvements in the park visitor experience and in native habitats, and has supported positive change in the community.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Jim Newland  

Strategic Planning and Recreation Services Division  

Jim is recognized for his dedication in keeping the conversation focused and ongoing regarding the need for historians and new historical research in parks. His ongoing efforts have helped pave the way for a new generation of highly trained park professionals from diverse backgrounds to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California.  

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Wes Cater   

Colorado Desert District 

This special posthumous recognition honors Wes Cater, a park manager at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the 1960s, who demonstrated what it meant to uphold the mission and goals of California State Parks. Maintaining his professional standards and refusing to compromise his integrity and the integrity of the department, in June 1966 Wes stood up against adverse community pressure urging him not to allow Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez and farmworker organizers to stay at the park. As illustrated by this incident and throughout his career, Wes believed and demonstrated that California’s state parks are for everyone and all have a right to use them.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.

Special Act/Service Awards

Recognizes employees who have performed an extraordinary act of heroism extending far above the normal call of duty or service. 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Evacuation Team 

Santa Cruz District 

This team is honored for working together to execute successful evacuations at Big Basin Redwoods State Park during the CZU Lightning Complex fire in August-September 2020.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Marcos Ortega and Ryan Petersen 

Monterey District 

Sector Superintendent II, Marcos Ortega, and State Park Peace Officer (Lifeguard), Ryan Petersen are recognized for rescuing a man from drowning at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur on Aug. 18, 2020. 

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Ziad Bawarshi 

Santa Cruz District 

Ziad is recognized for orchestrating courageous teamwork to save the Rancho Del Oso Nature Center in Big Basin Redwoods State Park during the CZU Lightning Complex fire in August-September 2020.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Adrian York 

North Coast Redwoods District 

Adrian is recognized for coordinating the rescue of two young men drowning at Trinidad State Beach on  November 11, 2019.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

State Park Peace Officer Wildfires Response

Northern Buttes District

This team is recognized for their amazing service during the Butte County wildfires in 2020, which had one of the worst fire seasons in California’s history.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Sabrina Buis

Northern Buttes District

Sabrina is recognized for her selfless determination to rescue victims on April 12, 2020, in the Thermalito Dam Canal in Oroville.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Jaycee McNally

San Diego Coast District 

Jaycee is honored for helping save a man who had been in a car crash caused by a drunk driver near Carlsbad on Nov. 16, 2020.

Watch Ceremony Video Here. 

Dr. Greg Dunnavant

Administrative Services Division 

This special posthumous recognition honors Dr. Greg Dunnavant, who for more than 20 years, led State Parks’ Emergency Medical Service Training and Policy/Protocol implementation.

Watch Ceremony Video Here.