Taking pride in America's public lands

LDS are well represented in voluntarism awards

Latter-day Saints are well represented among recently announced honorees in the national Take Pride in America Volunteer Awards.

Sponsored by the U.S. Government with 100 charter partners that include state and local governments; conservation, youth and recreation groups; and top national corporations and organizations, Take Pride in America yearly recognizes outstanding volunteer projects and efforts in a variety of categories. Honorees are recognized for helping protect or enhance America's public lands. Winners are selected by a panel of reviewers and will be honored Sept. 21 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Winners were announced Aug. 23 in a live video teleconference hosted by Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton. The teleconference emanated from 13 sites around the nation and involved 18 winners. Church members were involved in at least three of the winning projects:

• In the Faith-Based Group category, the honoree was the Mililani Hawaii Stake. The award recognizes the efforts of Latter-day Saints, many of them youth, in "adopting" the Wahiawa Fresh-Water Park in Honolulu. Participating in the teleconference was Leroy R. Lehano, first counselor in the presidency of the Mililani Hawaii Stake, who noted that a fresh-water park is rather unusual in Hawaii, considering the state's character as an ocean locale. But people enjoy the park very much; hence the motivation for Church members to serve others by helping to maintain it. He said the project is an outgrowth of the stake's nine-year participation in the Adopt-a-Stream program of the city and county of Honolulu, though the fresh-water park is administered by the state

Introducing President Lehano, Carl Masaki, program manager with the Division of State Parks, said that in a time of dwindling budgets, "we've come to depend a lot on volunteers to keep our parks clean and attractive to all visitors." It was he who nominated the stake for the award.

• In the Local Government Event/Program category, Bountiful City in Utah was honored for improvements to Bountiful Lake, located near the east shore of the Great Salt Lake. Bountiful Lake was formed by excavating 650,000 cubic yards of clay soil for use as cover material at the city's sanitary landfill. Volunteers then helped with projects at the lake, including building and installing fish habitat, painting bridges, assembling and installing picnic tables, planting aquatic vegetation and picking up and removing trash.

Two stakes in Bountiful and about 20 Boy Scout troops, including LDS youth, helped in the project. Mayor Joe L. Johnson, a former president of the Ohio Columbus Mission, described one particular day of service in which "our entire parking lot was filled with youth who did about 1,500 hours of service."

• Winning an award in the State Event/Program category was the Take Pride in Utah program, a partnership of state and federal public-lands agencies, local communities and private organizations. Over the past year, it has been the catalyst for the Governor's Watershed Initiative, completing work on 25 critical watersheds around the state.

Robert L. Morgan, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said, "I think we've had literally hundreds of projects and thousands of volunteers. . . . This was done with zero budget with the exception of contributions from those volunteers and also some assistance from the federal level."

With a preponderance of the state's population being Church members, many were among those thousands of volunteers.

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