Division of Parks and Recreation Honors Employees

January 26, 2024

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Division of Parks and Recreation recently recognized several individuals for their dedication and hard work in the state parks system. The awards were made at the division’s annual meeting held virtually last month.

“It is an honor to recognize these individuals,” said Jeff VanMeeteren, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. "Our staff works hard each year, and visitors to South Dakota state parks and recreation areas appreciate their efforts."

Distinguished Service Award

Distinguished Service award was given to Willy Collignon. Willy has served the Division of Parks and Recreation for nearly 30 years working at the George S. Mickelson Trail, Angostura Recreation Area, and most recently as the Regional Park Supervisor in northeastern South Dakota.

“Willy is a leader in the Parks Division who has taken on many large projects this past year and can be counted on to get them to the finish line,” said VanMeeteren. “He is also the first to stand in line to try something new and go through the process of shaping it for the Division.”

Awards of Appreciation

Awards of Appreciation were presented Jim Henning and John Murphy.

Jim Henning was recognized for his exceptional dedication and commitment to the conservation and management of Good Earth State Park. “Jim does a great job navigating the needs of the visitors while still maintaining the park at the highest levels and standards,” said district supervisor, Jason Baumann.

District conservation officer supervisor John Murphy was presented an award of appreciation for his role in coordinating law enforcement services for the Pierre area parks. “John initiated several procedures that have improved law enforcement efficiency, presence, and effectiveness,” said regional supervisor, Pat Buscher, “He is a visible and dedicated presence in the parks, and he is well appreciated by park staff.”  

Teamwork Award

A Teamwork Award was presented to Shane Swenson, Bailey Biegler, Jason Cox, and Mark Crawford, who organized a training event at Spring Creek Recreation Area north of Pierre. The event provided hands-on training in carpentry and general construction.

“Two dozen park employees from across the state came together to assist in renovations of two cabins at Spring Creek,” said VanMeeteren. “This training was useful to career development while making real improvements to a park that many visitors will enjoy.”

Another Teamwork Award was presented to Chris Corder, Forrest Chapman, Doug Boes, Katelyn Mann, Paul Sedlmajer, Ryan Raynor, Kyle Potter, Keith Garrigan, and Carter Knecht, who worked together to improve fishing and boating access at Ft. George, De Grey, West Bend, Joe Creek, Oahe Downstream, and Lake Louise.

“The Division is extremely appreciative and proud of these efforts,” said VanMeeteren.

Seasonal Employee of the Year

The 2023 Seasonal Employee of the Year is Tom Zerr. Tom has worked seasonally at Indian Creek Recreation Area near Mobridge for 17 years as a campground supervisor.

“Tom started his second career with parks after retiring as a schoolteacher,” said Indian Creek park manager, Dan Richards. “He brought many of his teaching and education skills with him in the form of providing programs for park visitors, working the front office, and assisting park staff with his extensive knowledge of planting and tree maintenance. Tom has always been eager to showcase the park. It is important to him that the visitors’ first impression is a positive one.”

Volunteers of the Year

John and Sue Hefner earned the 2023 Volunteers of the Year award. The Hefners have been volunteering as the Pease Creek Recreation Area campground hosts for ten years. “During their time of service, they have greatly contributed to the success of Pease Creek by making connections in the surrounding community and with the campers,” said district supervisor, Kris Monroe. “John and Sue epitomize the dedication and importance of state park volunteers.”

Photos of the award winners can be available upon request. Please contact with the requested award(s).


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