Neil Sperry was presented the National and Texas DAR Conservation Awards and Medal Friday night, March 7, at the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution’s 115th Annual State Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. More than 1,400 members and guests attended the conference.
Sperry was sponsored by the Major Jarrell Beasley Chapter, NSDAR, Crockett, Texas, whose members reside throughout the state. The award recognizes an adult with a distinguished volunteer conservation record. The criteria included outstanding efforts in resource management, park establishment, youth leadership, conservation related media and education on the elementary – college level.
Neil’s qualifications include serving as a founding board member and board president of the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney being involved in the planting of more than 20,000 crape myrtles through the McKinney Park and Recreation Department; overseeing the opening of the 7 acre, $1.5 million World Collection Park of the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney in 2011; the distribution of 1 gallon crape myrtle plants to 2200 McKinney 5th graders, and speaking to students on a regular basis about how to plant and sustain the plants.
The park is the only place known in the world that conserves and displays all of the crape myrtle cultivars in existence. Its creation ensures the long-term preservation and conservation of the important genetic diversity of both historical and modern Crape Myrtle varieties. America’s First President, George Washington, was believed to be one of the first growers of crape myrtles in America.
Other volunteer conservation activities included judging the 5th grade ‘McKinney, Crape Myrtle and Me’ annual art contest; overseeing the planting 1500 crape myrtles on the MISD campuses; turning historic, rare, and beautiful woods into fine writing instruments; assisting Serenity high school students in pruning and maintaining over 100 Crape Myrtles in McKinney’s historic Pecan Grove Cemetery; voluntarily maintaining his public Facebook page, answering conservation and gardening questions; and distributing his monthly e-gardens newsletter free to persons interested in conservation and gardening.
Letters of recommendations were received from Margaret Pooler, the National Arboretum’s Research Leader; Gary Knox, University of Florida Professor; J.D. Kennedy, Ed.D. McKinney ISD Superintendent; Melissa Bradley, Denton State Supported Living Center’s retired Director of Community Relations; Juli Ferrar, MISD’s Serenity High School Principal; and Margaret Harsch, McKinney Education Foundation’s Operations Director.
Story submitted by Jeanne McLeod; photos by ownbeyphotgrapy.com