John Barry Crain, Chaney, John A. | 5/27/2005 2:48:24 AM
WOODWORTH – An educational trail in the Alexander State Forest was dedicated to a former LSU AgCenter forester earlier this month – in recognition of his efforts in developing such educational endeavors.
The trail was dedicated to Tom Prince, who retired from the LSU AgCenter in 1993 and died in late 2004. During his 27 years with the AgCenter, Prince was known for a range of educational activities related to forestry – one of which was serving as a cofounder of the area’s Forest Awareness Week activities for students.
Appropriately, the Tom Prince Trail was dedicated in a May 4 ceremony at the Indian Creek Recreation Center in Woodworth during this year’s Forest Awareness Week. The ceremony took place as students roamed the trails Prince and others had helped to develop, so young people could learn more about forestry and its importance to the state.
Forest Awareness Week began in 1986 when Tom Prince, then an area forester with the LSU AgCenter, and Clyde Todd, at that time with the U.S. Forest Service, teamed up with the Rapides Parish School system to offer forestry training in an outdoor classroom.
Officials credit the two men with having the wisdom, foresight and ability to create an opportunity to educate young people about the importance of forestry and forestry stewardship.
The first forestry trail was in the Kisatchie National Forest near Kincade Lake, and it opened in the fall of 1986.
Due to the success of the first Forest Awareness Week activities, another trail was developed and opened several years later in the Alexander State Forest near Woodworth to offer a similar educational activity in the spring. That trail is the one which was officially dedicated as the Tom Prince Trail this month.
The Tom Prince Trail is ½ mile long and includes seven educational stops along its path. Professionals from the forest industry volunteer to teach an educational session at each stop on the trail during the Forest Awareness Week activities as students walk the tree-lined trail.
Prince and Todd founded the Forestry Awareness Week activities and volunteered to help plan and conduct outdoor forestry classes for the next 18 years. To date, about 29,000 students in Rapides Parish have walked the trails and participated in the educational sessions on its path.
In addition, since the founding, such activities have spread to 13 other parishes and to several other states.
Prince was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award from the Louisiana County Agricultural Agents Association for his efforts in developing Forestry Awareness Week. He also served on the National 4-H Invitational Committee and coached a forestry team to win that national contest.
"Following Tom’s retirement, I became his replacement," said Barry Crain, area forestry agent for the LSU AgCenter, adding, "I quickly realized the task would be similar to a football coach replacing Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant or Nick Sabin."
With this dedication, Prince’s legacy of creating one of the most successful forestry educational programs in the region will be remembered by many who walk the trail in the future.