DNREC parks director earns national distinguished service award

September 24, 2021

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced that Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens received the 2021 National Association of State Park Directors Conference Distinguished Service Award Sept. 10 during the NASPD’s annual conference.

The award is given to a state park director who has demonstrated a long-term, sustained record of professional accomplishment in the field of park and recreation management.

“Ray is the perfect recipient of this national award. He is an innovative problem solver and leader whose passion for the environment, people and our state park system directly benefit the millions of people who visit Delaware State Parks each year,” said Shawn M. Garvin, DNREC secretary. “He is a true steward of park lands with a customer-centric focus who pushes his team to excel and provide the public with enjoyable experiences within our state parks.”

For 30 years, Bivens has dedicated his career to park stewardship with a passion for natural and cultural resources, customer service, training, partnerships and staff development. He is a hands-on leader who often works alongside Delaware State Parks field staff to gain perspective on the visitor experience.

He has placed a focus on youth during his 18-year tenure with Delaware State Parks, and played lead roles in creating the Delaware Children in Nature plan and the First State Heritage Park in Dover. One of his first acts as director was to establish the Delaware Youth Conservation Corps. Other accomplishments include helping develop the Trap Pond and Killens Pond state park nature centers, along with multiple new trails and playgrounds.

Under Bivens’ leadership, the Delaware State Parks system, administered by the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation, has seen tremendous growth and broken records in various areas, including camping/cabin stays, volunteer hours, park attendance and revenue. Park users generate 65 percent of the revenue utilized to operate and maintain the parks. A recent economic impact study concluded that out-of-state visitors generate close to $400 million in impact on the Delaware economy thanks to the state park system. 

In 2016, the division was selected as the only small state to be awarded the National Gold Medal as the best-managed state park system for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.

Delaware State Parks is currently a finalist for the 2021 Gold Medal award to be announced later this month.

“Delaware State Parks has an abundance of natural and cultural resources, but our greatest resources are the dedicated staff and volunteers who passionately give of their time and talents,” said Bivens.

Prior to being named Delaware’s eighth state park director in 2013, Bivens served as the division’s chief of interpretation and operations section manager. Bivens’ natural resources career started when he was a teenager in the Maryland Youth Conservation Corps. He served as a park naturalist for various Maryland state parks including Rocky Gap, Tuckahoe and Point Lookout . Bivens and his wife Becky Bivens reside in Frederica.

The DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation oversees more than 26,000 acres in 17 state parks and the Brandywine Zoo. 

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