Local parks, trails and open space advocates Bert Lindler and Kevin Verlanic, and Missoula Parks and Recreation staffer Meg Whicher were honored for their service and contributions to the parks and recreation movement at last week’s annual meeting of the Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association.The association is a statewide organization of trails, parks and recreation professionals. Lindler received the Outstanding Citizen Volunteer award, and Verlanic received a Citation of Merit, which are awarded to exceptional community volunteers and advocates. Whicher received the Professional Award, which honors individuals who provide leadership and make significant contributions to the parks and recreation profession.Lindler, who currently serves on the city’s Open Space Advisory Committee and the formerly served on the Conservation Lands Advisory Committee, has been a tireless supporter of trails, open space and wildlife conservation efforts in key areas of Missoula, including the Grant Creek Trail and Missoula’s North Hills. Parks and Recreation Open Space Program Manager Elizabeth Erickson says Lindler is a vital force in the local conservation community. “Bert will always step up when there is a need for committed volunteers to advocate for Missoula’s open lands, whether it’s pulling weeds in the North Hills, counting elk on Mount Jumbo or advocating for open space conservation before a public body, he is there with a smile and sense of humor,” Erickson said.Verlanic, UM Campus Recreation’s Business Manager, served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for over four years, and has served on the city’s Open Space Advisory Committee since 2014. Verlanic has also volunteered on Parks and Recreation’s Conservation Lands Advisory Committee since 2011. “Kevin’s strategic vision has been invaluable to open space conservation and conservation lands management efforts throughout the City and County,” said Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler. “His vast knowledge and experience in park maintenance, recreation program delivery, budgets, and policy permit him to be remarkably effective in facilitating positive change for the community,” Gaukler added.Recreation Specialist Meg Whicher received the MTRPA’s Professional Award for her success in developing Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation program and greatly expanding local recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Whicher, who has worked with Missoula Parks and Recreation since 2013, has become a nationally recognized expert on inclusive and adaptive recreation programming. Earlier this year Whicher was voted one of the Missoulian newspaper’s “20 Under 40”— “top young professionals who excel in entrepreneurship, leadership, creative vision, innovation and dedication to the community,” according to the Missoulian.Gaukler says Whicher’s hard work has improved the quality of life of many throughout the community. “Meg is an exceptional recreation professional engaging all the necessary tools and adding a huge dose of passion and enthusiasm to truly make Missoula better place to live and play through high quality programming for all citizens,” Gaukler said.Members of the Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association (MTRPA) are affiliated with local, county, state and federal agencies throughout the state, and work to improve the quality of life of all Montanans. MTRPA Executive Board President Chad Fincher is the director of the Kalispell Parks & Recreation Department. For more information, visit http://www.mtrpa.info/.