Trail Worker Award
This award recognizes an individual that has made outstanding contributions and provided consistent support for trail planning, development, or maintenance. It is intended to recognize the efforts of a private or public sector individual working for enhanced trail recreation on either the local, state, or national level.
Kansas: Bunnie Watkins
Bunnie Watkins has been part of the US Army Corps team at Perry Lake for nearly two decades.
She is the key point of contact for volunteers at the lake involved in recreational trails and camp hosting. She oversees the volunteer efforts on separate day hiking, hiking and equestrian facilities. I am most familiar with her efforts on the 29-mile Perry Lake Hiking Trail where I have been a volunteer trail watcher and coordinator over the years.
Perry Lake Hiking Trail is a designated National Recreational Trail. It has become a model for the state as it is:
- Thoroughly GPS mapped, with the GPS data available for use by all trail users.
- Has major access points with trailhead kiosks.
- Has mile markers along the trail.
- Is well communicated to users through printed maps and a website Bunnie has been the key person driving recent updates and improvements Perry Lake Hiking Trail.
These efforts include:
- A full-color, printed map of the trail; replacing a very basic map that had become out-of-date due to improvements. Bunnie coordinated the efforts of volunteers, mapping providers, Corps staff, and printers to deliver this much-improved map.
- Revitalization of the hiker’s campground area, including cleanup and signage. The Old Military Trail camp area had been closed for years until Bunnie helped drive renewed interest in this facility.
- A new kiosk at the primary trailhead in Slough Creek Park. An old, decaying kiosk was replaced at the main trailhead. But, Bunnie drove further improvement by locating the kiosk at the parking area, where before it was located a couple hundred feet down the trail. Visitors unfamiliar with the area are now better able to locate and use the trail.
- Driving major improvements in trail condition throughout. Historically, the trail has been maintained by a small crew of direct, regular volunteers, supplemented by periodic maintenance outings that recruited volunteers from local environmental and outdoor groups. Volunteer numbers had declined in recent years. Bunnie stepped in to fill this gap by supplying and supporting contractors to do major downed tree removal and some general mowing along parts of the trail.
Bunnie hikes the trail in her own spare time and reports conditions to the larger volunteer crew, as well as the Corps staff. She is also an active cyclist and kayaker. Bunnie is in routine contact with lake visitors and enthusiastically promotes Perry Lake’s recreational trail facilities. With Bunnie’s continued leadership, visitors to these trails will continue to enjoy the wooded rolling hills scenery and the exciting outdoor experience of northeast Kansas.