RRSP staff members to receive award of distinction
Several members of the Roaring River State Park staff have been nominated for a 2013 Missouri State Employee Award of Distinction, which will be presented at the Capitol Building in Jefferson City on State Employee Recognition Day, May 31.
Park Superintendent Dusty Reid, Ranger Josh Rolls and staff members Tim Smith, Cheyne Matzenbacher, Randall Norman, Gary Swearingen and Kerry Hays were nominated for the distinguished award based on their response to a significant storm that impacted Roaring River on Aug. 3, 2012.
Described as strong downburst winds, the storm tore through the park at about 12:15 a.m. Strong winds brought down hundreds of trees and caused large limbs to fall throughout the campgrounds. The storm also impacted electric services and damaged several facilities in the park.
After the initial storm blew through the park, staff members made their way through campgrounds to access damage, check for injuries and notify visitors that shelter was available at the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center.
"This was not a mandatory evacuation; we just gave them the information they needed to make educated decisions to keep themselves and their family safe," said Reid. "Most of the campers went to the inn as a precautionary measure or because their camping gear had been ruined from the high wind event.
"It was not until the sun came up and the storms had passed that we officially evacuated the affected campsites," said Reid. "The evacuation was done so that clean-up procedure could be carried out in a safe and efficient manner."
After ensuring that no campers were injured, staff members worked to clear all of the roadways and assist visitors interested in vacating their campsites and relocating to the inn. While campers waited at the inn, staff members began to clear debris from the most affected campsites.
"When the campers returned to their campsites, two to three hours later, the tree limbs and debris had been removed from on top of and around their vehicles and campsite," said Reid. "This allowed them to gather their belongings and pack up in a safe manner.
"During the period that visitors were in the inn, park staff gave them frequent updates and kept them well informed of everything going on in the park," added Reid.
The park staff members nominated for the state award were on the scene immediately and worked through the night to ensure the safety of visitors. They cleared main campground roads, barricaded downed power lines and monitored more storms moving into the area.
"Within just a few hours park staff had checked on the wellbeing of every camper in the park, cleared several miles of roads, which allowed guests to find more substantial shelter, and cleared debris from over 100 campsites so that visitors could access their personal belongings," said Reid. "All of this was done while it continued to rain, and each time I asked the staff if they needed a break it was obvious that they were not about to stop working until all the campers and their belongings were secure."
It took several weeks and the assistance of staff members from neighboring state parks to complete the entire clean-up effort.
"Everyone involved worked tirelessly and without hesitation to get our park back on its feet, but I think it was the initial response by the Roaring River State Park staff that made the most significant difference to our guests," said Reid. "This crew went above and beyond their normal responsibilities in responding to this event and did so with great desire and dedication to our park guests."
Reid and the Roaring River State Park staff members were nominated for the state award by Denny Bopp, Missouri State Parks deputy director. The Missouri State Employee Award of Distinction is the highest honor that can be received by a state employee.
Awards of distinction are given in six categories: heroism; human relations; innovative suggestion of the year; leadership; public service; and safety. Roaring River employees will be honored in the safety category.
Rolls, Smith, Matzenbacher, Norman, Swearingen and Hays were also honored with a Masterpiece Award this year. The award was presented for the crew's response during the same severe storm, and the nomination was made by Reid.