National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials

June 25, 2019 - Awards Edition

NACPRO Honors Excellence at Awards Banquet

The NACPRO Board of Directors recognized 36 individuals, organizations, programs and projects at the annual Awards Banquet held in Douglas County, Colorado on June 9, 2019. 100 nominations were submitted this year. Joe Roszak, Awards Committee chair, was quick to point out that the review process was very difficult because there were so many excellent nominations. 

NACPRO's mission is to advance the practice of parks and recreation, and the awards program is the perfect platform to identify excellence and share among practitioners.

This year we are sharing with you all of the award nominations because they are a great source of ideas. Contact information is included if you want to get more details.  

Read about our 2019 awardees below and if you want to learn more, check out the full nominations on the NACPRO website:

Award nominations for 2020 will open in January. 

2019 Award Recipients

Outstanding Public Officials

Nancy Wallerstein
Board Member
Johnson County Park & Recreation District, Kansas

In February 2019, Nancy Wallerstein completed her tenure as the longest serving Board Member in Johnson County Park & Recreation District’s history. In the 20 years she served, in every board officer position multiple times, including four terms as chair. During Nancy’s tenure, the district built and renovated facilities, acquired more than $40 million in park land, and opened four new parks providing access to more than 3,000 additional acres of greenspace to the public. Nancy’s passion for the arts led to the acquisition and development of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center. Under Nancy’s leadership, the district won the National Gold Medal and remained CAPRA accredited, meeting 100 percent of the standards.

The Honorable Dorothy Jaeckle
Bermuda District Supervisor
Chesterfield County, Virginia

Since 2007, Dorothy Jaeckle has served as the Bermuda District Supervisor with an unwavering focus on resident’s health and wellness, particularly youth. Ms. Jaeckle’s dedicated efforts have led to the adoption of the Bikeways and Trails Plan, which will create a county-wide network of bikeways and mixed-use trails, and the Jefferson Davis Special Area Plan, which prioritizes the revitalization of park and recreation facilities in one of the most underserved areas of the county. Ms. Jaeckle’s dedication to parks and recreation programs cannot be understated. A tireless advocate of free access to recreation opportunities for youth, her continuous support for parks and recreation has helped shape Chesterfield County for generations to come.

Outstanding Support Organizations

Friends of Green Spring (FROGS)
Fairfax County Park Authority, Virginia

The Friends of Green Spring (FROGS) is a non-profit membership organization and celebrated 25 years of service to Fairfax County Park Authority in 2018. With over 1,500 members, FROGS offers financial, operational, programmatic, facility, and volunteer support. Since 1993, FROGS donated more than $2 million to the park. Projects include a plant shop, lecture series, art shows, glasshouse renovations, building renovations and ongoing funding for interns and seasonal staff. FROGS supports professional development opportunities for staff and provides money for tools. This is just a portion of support FROGS has provided. They bring added value to the park by providing mission-aligned programs, operational support, and bring new meaning to the word support organization.

West Creek Conservancy
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

West Creek Conservancy is a non-profit conservation organization that reclaims vacant urban lands and restores streams, wetlands, woods, and natural habitats in Greater Cleveland. The Conservancy establishes trails and greenways while helping to conserve greenspace and manage stormwater. In 2006, the Conservancy acquired 279 acres of land in one of the most densely populated areas of NE Ohio, leading to the formation of Cleveland Metroparks 16th reservation. Through the Conservancy, West Creek Reservation has grown to 375 acres with an additional 127 acres pending transfer. They have been critical regional players in land acquisition to support a variety of trail connector projects and have lead various regional conservation collaborations.

Outstanding Contributor

Matt Cole, Co-owner/Head Brewer
Fat Head's Brewery, Ohio

Matt Cole, owner and brewer at the local Fat Head’s Brewery is a frequent rider of Cleveland Metroparks mountain bike trails. He so appreciated the trails, in 2012 he offered to brew a beer and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Park District’s Trails Fund. He named it Trail Head Pale Ale. As a businessman, Matt wanted his brand associated with Cleveland Metroparks but Ohio Revised Code restricted alcohol promotion by public entities. Nevertheless, he stuck with the project. In 2019, Matt’s total donations topped $125,000. Matt is the single largest donor to the Trails Fund and his money helped build the trails program from the ground up, helping pay for equipment, materials and staff and volunteer training.

Outstanding Volunteer

Michael Applegate
Fairfax County Park Authority, Virginia

Michael Applegate spends an average of 30 hours a week maintaining Fairfax County trails. On the hottest days of summer, he can be found mowing, trimming trees, shoveling gravel, fixing storm damage, and improving conditions along the single-track trail. His untiring work ethic has improved the trails at Laurel Hill Park beyond that which would have been possible with Fairfax County maintenance resources alone. His attention to the walking trails has increased the accessibility and enjoyment for visitors, and his maintenance and improvement of bicycle trails has made this area a `go-to` spot. Michael serves as a role model for children and adults, demonstrating the importance of volunteerism and the difference one person can make.

Park & Recreation Program - Class I

Grandparent/Grandchild Summer Camp
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia

The Department’s first intergenerational program was the Grandparent/Grandchild Summer Day Camp held in July 2018. This history-themed camp was a collaboration between the Parks and Recreation Department and the Chesterfield Historical Society. Participants journeyed back to the late 18th century with archaeology activities, housekeeping duties, farming and games. They learned about canals, grist mills, house-building and the Revolutionary War. Activities were specifically planned to enhance the bonding between the campers and their grandparent, as well as to explore the history of Chesterfield County. Because of the success of this camp and collaboration with the Historical Society, the department is planning to offer this camp again and explore other intergenerational programming opportunities.

Tree Climbing
Metroparks Toledo, Ohio

Public recreation surveys told Metroparks Toledo that residents feel they have to leave the area to pursue high adventure, so our Outdoor Skills department began offering tree climbing in 2017. Recreational tree climbing provides an inclusive outlet for high adventure and facilitates, a connection between the participant and the natural environment. A rope and pulley system results in a 3 to 1 mechanical advantage, allowing facilitators to hoist someone with physical disabilities. The activity serves a wide demographic with individuals from age 4 to 74. Residents wishing to try this adventure previously would have to travel two to three hours away. Metroparks Toledo is bringing an incredibly unique opportunity to this region.

Park & Recreation Program - Class II

Girls Empowerment Conference
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation, California

Girls Empowerment Conference has been embodying that spirit since 2015. Formed to engage girls ages 11-17 in topics like technology, leadership, advocacy, research, fundraising and marketing, the program has grown from 80 girls in 2015, to over 1,000 in 2018. The conference gives girls and young women the opportunity to hear from and be inspired by industry experts and key role models who understand the challenges and the potential obstacles to their successful future. Through inspiring presentations, panels, and networking opportunities tailored to all levels and areas of responsibility, the conference allows girls to leave with new insights and concrete strategies to further their personal value proposition and achievements.

Greater Maywood Paddling Program
Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois

The Greater Maywood Paddling Program is a unique community paddling initiative that provides an economical, supportive and accessible way for organized groups to connect to nature through kayaking. The 2018 pilot was launched and 11 community group leaders were trained and certified on kayaking, gear, safety and group leadership. Leaders have access to the onsite Kayak Gear Library which provides the supplies needed for group paddling. In 2018 there were a total of 17 partner led paddling trips and 15 public programs with 527 participants. The program exceeded its goals and is already recruiting more community partners to participate in its 2019 season and hopes to expand to other interested communities across Cook County in the future.

Riverside County Healthy Living Extravaganza
Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District, California

The Riverside County Healthy Living Extravaganza Event is a collaboration between agency partners with a goal of providing a family friendly, free event where participants can obtain information and resources related to a healthy lifestyle. Partners recruited more than 100 vendors offering kid’s activities, health screenings, health products, and program information. With the support of sponsors the event provided a Kid’s Fun Zone, petting zoo, train ride, bounce houses, climbing wall, and crafts station, and a band. More than $10,000 annually have been contributed for the event in addition to the staff hours provided by all of the partner agencies. Each year, participation has continued to grow, with more than 1,300 guests attending in 2018.

Park & Recreation Facility - Class I

Howard Marsh
Metroparks Toledo, Ohio

Today, only 31,000 of the original 300,000 acres of coastal wetlands in Lake Erie’s western basin remain, making restoration a top priority. In 2008, Metroparks Toledo purchased a 987-acre active farm near the shores of Lake Erie. By restoring 700 acres of high-quality habitat, Howard Marsh Metropark helps achieve regional water quality objectives and creates new world-class recreational opportunities for birding, boating, fishing and hunting. The park's unique design immerses park visitors into a total wetland experience with a spectacular 360 degree view of three interconnected marshland units interspersed with nine restored upland habitat islands. This is the single largest wetland restoration project completed under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Stark Parks Wildlife Conservation Center
Stark Parks, Ohio

For 30 years, Stark Parks conducted wildlife rehabilitation in a 2,000-sq-foot building. In 2018, they opened a 9,405-square-foot, $3 million facility was that was thoughtfully planned to blend with the surrounding environment. Green features abound throughout the building, beginning with high-quality, local construction materials intended for reduced maintenance. Cisterns collect water for reuse, and stormwater is managed by bioswales. Glass in the windows includes a ceramic frit to help prevent bird strikes. Modern skylights reduce the need for lighting, and improve an animal’s transition back outside by regulating natural circadian rhythms. Stark Parks is now better equipped for wildlife rehabilitation, with the ultimate goal of returning the animals back to the wild.

Park & Recreation Facility - Class II

Borrego Springs Civic Complex: Park, Library and Sheriff's Office
County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, California

In 2018, the County of San Diego completed the new Borrego Springs Civic Complex project featuring a 16-acre public park, library, and Sheriff’s office. The new park includes a playground with mister, amphitheater, various ball courts, fitness stations, picnic areas, dog park and trails. The combination of civic amenities makes this project unique along with the design honoring Borrego Springs’ dark skies and stargazing. The complex is unified around a planetary-focused theme. The Walk of the Cosmos begins with the sun at the library and ends with Pluto at the dog park. An observatory pad in the heart of park is aligned with the North Star. This innovative civic complex provides the community with a centralized campus for learning, exploring and engaging.

French Regional Park Play Area
Three Rivers Park District, Minnesota

After nearly 30 years, the play area at French Regional Park in Plymouth, Minnesota, was due for replacement. The project team emphasized community input and decided that the play area is primarily used by kids, so kids should have an integral voice in design. Staff engaged a third-grade elementary school class and charted a course of workshops over a two-year period. The goals were to gather insight from youth while providing career modeling and mentors for diverse youth. The new play offered a greater level of accessibility - the level approximately seven feet off the ground is accessible for wheelchair users. Opening August 2018, feedback from play area users and the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

Trails & Corridors - Class I

Maumee River Water Trail
Metroparks Toledo, Ohio

Located in Northwest Ohio, the Maumee River Water Trail flows for 108 miles and connects 39 access sites. The Maumee River Water Trail provides safe access to water recreation to over 400,000 people living in communities within 5 miles of the Maumee. Water trails serve the community by packaging and promoting public access sites, printed materials, signage, and other resources to provide a consistent “one-stop shopping” experience. The Maumee also has an interactive website providing user-friendly service and designed to inspire increased usage of the water trail. Visitors now have the tools and information they need to access the river, feel safe on the water, and to experience the physical and mental benefits of water recreation.

Dutch Gap Conservation Area Relic River Boardwalk
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia

Opened in 2018, the Relic River Boardwalk resides in an old oxbow of the James River, in an historically significant and unique part of the James. The facility includes an ADA-compliant eight-car parking lot, overlook, 148’ of elevated and 400’ of floating boardwalk with a handicap-accessible canoe/kayak launch for wildlife observation and boating. The boardwalk is a major destination for wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs, fishermen and kayakers. The distinctive structure floats in the marsh and provides access to an isolated wetlands habitat. The facility is ADA-compliant, providing a tremendous resource and opportunity for the population with physical impairments. The Relic River Boardwalk offers a unique experience in a natural environment unequaled in the region.

Trails & Corridors - Class II

Maricopa Trail
Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Department, Arizona

The blueprint for the Maricopa Trail was designed to capitalize on existing right-of-ways, such as canals, parks, and utility corridors while ensuring the trail would be designed and constructed according to national trail guidelines. The intended users for the trail consists of runners, walkers, cyclists, inline skaters and equestrians, regardless of age and physical abilities. To celebrate the completion of Phase One, the 315-mile loop that connects our regional parks to more than 21 cities/towns, three Tribal communities and three federal lands, the department hosted a celebration on November 17, 2018 attended by the public, partners, elected officials, and staff. The Maricopa Trail is proving to be an invaluable asset to connect the community with nature.

Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail
Three Rivers Park District, Minnesota

Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail spans five cities, connecting them to Three Rivers’ 160-mile regional trail network. The trail connects neighborhoods, job centers, schools, libraries, retail nodes, churches, and parks. Development of this trail was a 10-year process from 2008 to the opening in 2018, involving 14 agencies, numerous boards and commissions, and the public. Although the trail traverses an urban environment, use of 1.7 miles of boardwalks allowed crossing wetlands and floodplains along its namesake creek. Potential trail gaps were remedied with three trail bridges over highways, and a trail tunnel under an arterial street. The trail is open year-round to bicyclists, walkers, runners and dog-walkers and is expected to attract over 400,000 visitors each year.

Operational Facility

Bess Bower Dunn Museum - Collections Care and Storage Facility
Lake County Forest Preserve District, Illinois

Lake County Forest Preserve runs the nationally-accredited Bess Bower Dunn Museum, housing over 20,000 artifacts and 1,000 linear feet of archival materials related to county history. In 2018 the museum was moved from its home in repurposed 1930s wood-frame farm buildings to the Forest Preserve General Offices building. One of the key challenges was designing a safe, efficient facility for the historic collections which would adhere to the standards of nationally-accredited museums. Challenges were overcome by creating appropriate solutions for environmental, security, and access requirements. The Dunn Museum staff took what had been a “make-do” facility in former dairy farm buildings to a state-of-the-art showpiece in which the whole community take pride.

Historical/Cultural Facility

Look About Lodge Renovation
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

Look About Lodge is a beloved log building in Cleveland Metroparks constructed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration and used for nature education. Built using chestnut logs, local stone, and featuring hand-wrought iron chandeliers, the lodge is an excellent example of WPA craftsmanship and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Recent major deck restoration was conducted by Cleveland Metroparks staff with specialties in carpentry and stone masonry. The craftsmen took care to match original deck details such as the hand-split sandstone columns, carving timbers for railings, and hand-shaping the structural timbers together. The result is a structurally sound replacement that perfectly mimics the original construction of the lodge and preserves it for future generations.

Resident Curator Program
Fairfax County Park Authority, Virginia

The Resident Curator Program is designed to rejuvenate the County’s vacant and underutilized historic buildings. The program offers long term leases, without charge, to qualified private citizens or organizations in exchange for financial commitment to rehabilitate and maintain the property in accordance with established preservation standards. The program provides an opportunity to reduce public costs for the care of these properties and to preserve these resources. Out of 30 properties slated for inclusion, five are now in process. Two properties, a residence and an equestrian center, are under curator care, two are accepting applications, and one is advertised. Strong interest is gaining in this program helping preserve historic properties for future generations.


The Jackson Property Preservation
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

In 2019, Cleveland Metroparks will add 88.8 acres of high-quality greenspace to its South Chagrin Reservation. This greenspace is located in the southeastern portion of Cuyahoga County and the Chagrin River watershed. Urban development is a major threat to this watershed and preservation of land is necessary to maintain the health and quality existing water resources. These properties contain over 25 acres of Category 3 wetlands, the highest quality wetlands, and over 2,300 linear feet of Class III primary headwater streams that flow to the Chagrin River. The mature forests on the properties provide beneficial wildlife habitat and buffer these aquatic resources.

James River Conservation Area
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia

The James River Conservation Area property was originally scheduled for commercial development. The department purchased the property in 2016 for over a half-million dollars less than market value, protecting one of few remaining undeveloped properties in a highly urbanized and disadvantaged part of the county along the James River. The 107.9-acre conservation area is rich habitat, predominately forested and contains a designated 100-year floodplain and Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Areas. The area is also rich in history. The Civil War defenses at Drewry’s Bluff extend onto this property. The site contains two intact gun battery positions, which will be placed under conservation easement held by the state.

Kankakee Sands Preserve Restoration
Forest Preserve District of Will County, Illinois

The Forest Preserve District of Will County (FPDWC) acquired agricultural land in the Kankakee Sands region that separated three high quality nature preserves. The preserves provide habitat for over 700 native plant species and 500 wildlife species. Once hydrology and plant communities are fully restored to the former agricultural fields, these lands will interconnect the nature preserves, resulting in a 1,450 acre high-quality habitat complex adjacent to the Kankakee River. To date, 550 acres of native sand prairie and wetlands have been restored. These restorations allow cross-pollination, animal movement, and microhabitats for diverse insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and resident threatened and endangered species.

Removing Barriers Initiative

Removing Barriers
Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, Georgia

Throughout the years, the Columbus Parks and Recreation Therapeutic program has provided services for adults with disabilities and has been the transitional program for students after graduation. The therapeutic recreation section thrives on advancing the independence, social skills and community integration of individuals with disabilities. The Removing Barriers program provides participants with experiences such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing and facing their challenges or fears such as their social skills. The current number of participants within the program is 78 with a 60% increase in participation over the past year. Our participants have started to increase their independence in their home life by working part time jobs, taking public transportation and developing leadership skills.

Silent Night at Heritage Hill
Orange County Parks, California

Few public events cater to the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder. With this in mind, staff created Silent Night, a free event for this underserved community. Families pre-registered for Silent Night during one of two timed entries. The park offered luminaria-lit paths winding and holiday lighting displays. Marked paths led to ASD-suitable crafts, sing-along storytelling, Victorian carolers, refreshments, roasted chestnuts and even a chance to visit Santa Claus without the long lines. A Chill Zone was nestled in the park to create a stimulus-free space so children could take breaks. Attendees were overwhelmingly supportive and thankful. Silent Night provides a successful template for other park facilities to develop and implement programs for children with adaptive needs.


“Closer Than You Think” Campaign
Great Parks of Hamilton County, Ohio

In 2018, Great Parks introduced its “Closer Than You Think” campaign to build general awareness of the parks, preserves and programs. The campaign resulted from comprehensive research indicating that families, Great Parks’ top demographic, were unaware of Great Parks locations and programs. “Closer Than You Think” reminded them that a Great Park is literally closer than they think through social media, radio, television, billboards, print, video and a podcast. The campaign was considered a success as research results indicated an increase in awareness of Great Parks and its offerings among residents. Overall favorable awareness of Great Parks reached 84 to 89% according to independent survey results.

Destination Recreation Video Series
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, Florida

The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department creates a high quality video series titled, “Destination Recreation,” taking viewers through a guided tour of more than 110 parks and recreational facilities. Choosing a name that felt like an actual travel show was an important component. The shows include explanations of amenities, history, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at how staff contribute to visitor experience. The show was a response to a need to educate residents and visitors about some of our unique parks and recreational facilities and encourage visits to these locations. Viewed by thousands, the series plays on Palm Beach County’s Channel 20 television station, You Tube and social media.

Historic Riverside County Mobile App
Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District, California

The Riverside County Historical Commission long desired to share historic landmarks with Riverside County residents and visitors. The efforts of the commission and Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space (RivCoParks) resulted in a mobile device app, putting the information directly in the hands of those interested in historic landmarks. The Historic Riverside County App was launched in 2018 and offers 4 driving tours along main thoroughfares in the different regions of the county and includes 125 historic landmarks and locations. Recognizing the usefulness of this app in creating community advocacy for historic resources in the future, RivCoParks has a goal of 1,000 active users by summer of 2019.

Planning Initiative

Master Planning -18 Reservations
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

Cleveland Metroparks initiated a new internal Reservation Master Planning process in 2014. In five years, staff completed plans for 18 parks encompassing over 23,000 acres. The resulting plans outline activities for the next two to 20 years. Internal experts from every relevant department develop recommendations during workshops throughout the year. Outreach to diverse external stakeholders includes public open houses, online plans and comment forms, meetings with communities surrounding these regional parks, and groups with special interests to generate feedback. Cleveland Metroparks relies on up-to-date planning documents to help manage the natural resources and facilities of the Park District to serve more than 19 million guests annually.

Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation, California

The Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan models how agencies can create dynamic, multi-functional parks by re-envisioning former industrial sites. By harnessing concepts of urban infill, sustainable technologies, and context-sensitive solutions, 142 acres of the 1,365-acre site will be reclaimed as parkland. It will be the County’s first new regional park in more than 30 years, serving residents within a 25-mile radius. It will serve as a regional model for sustainability, interweaving sustainable practices, natural systems, and sustainability education throughout the future park. The Puente Hills Landfill Park provides cities across the globe a prime example of how previously negatively perceived open spaces can be transformed to create new and vital recreational opportunities.

Riverside County Comprehensive Trails Plan
Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District, California

Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District developed its first Riverside County Comprehensive Trails Plan in 2018. The Plan provides guidance for a sustainable and manageable trails network. It balances function, recreation, and the environment and provides recommendations for a sustainable, manageable, and funded program. The Plan develops a trail network that is compatible with other trail plans, and closes gaps throughout the county system. It addresses the needs of the development community by providing clarity regarding trail and development requirements and makes recommendations for trail alignments and connectivity points to local and community trail systems. When implemented, the Plan will provide residents with an improved trail network and system for all trail users.

Professional - Fellow

George Page
Executive Director
Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & Recreation Authority, Georgia

Executive Director George Page is known through the community as a leader who creates partnerships and forms relationships to improve residents’ quality of life. Most recently, he led in a public/private partnership to build the nation's largest Miracle Field at an Authority park which includes the Miracle Field, a boundless playground, and four standard fields. Page championed the growth of youth athletics, creating joint-use agreements with schools and a relationship with Valdosta State University. Consequently, hosting travel tournaments contribute to the local economy, totaling 7,000+ room nights and over $5 million in economic impact in the last calendar year alone.

Professional - Lifetime

Jack Sutton
Great Parks of Hamilton County, Ohio

Jack Sutton has served Great Parks of Hamilton County and for 30 years, becoming CEO in 2017. Jack has been pivotal in the success of two park levies, establishment of Great Parks’ first philanthropic partner, a district-wide re-branding and the implementation of a Comprehensive Master Plan, which will lead Great Parks through 2028. He has overseen the success of significant projects, including new parks and visitor centers, campgrounds, and four trails. Overall, he has seen the park district grow 7,852 acres, to 17,666 acres, and has witnessed the addition of 54+ miles of trails. His dedication to preserving natural resources will last generations with the return and continued protection of several endangered species.

John Scholtz
Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission, Michigan

When John began his tenure with the county 32 years ago, there were nine parks, totaling 400 acres. Today there are 28 parks, 12 open spaces, nearly 7,000 acres of land, and over 135 miles of trail. John’s vision and leadership have been crucial to the park system’s success. In the 1990’s the county’s population and land development was rapidly increasing. Funding was essential to support parks for the county’s growing population and the first 10-year parks millage passed in 1996. John’s reputation of humility and sound judgment is well-known. He balances land conservation with developing spaces for recreation. His dedication to ensuring public access to open space has allowed him to build strong relationships throughout his career.

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