August 19, 2020 - Awards Edition


In This Issue...

Professional Lifetime
Professional Fellow

Outstanding Contributor
Outstanding Public Official
Outstanding Support Organization
Outstanding Volunteer
Historical/Cultural Facility
Operational Facility
Park & Rec Facility – Class I
Park & Rec Facility – Class II
Park & Rec Program – Class I
Park & Rec Program – Class II
Planning Initiative
Removing Barriers Initiative
Trails & Corridors – Class I
Trails & Corridors – Class II


The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials is a non-profit professional organization that advances official policies that promote county and regional park and recreation issues while providing members with opportunities to network, exchange ideas and best practices, and enhance professional development.

Learn more about us at:


The next issue of NACPRO News will be delivered on September 1, 2020.

If you have news or an article to share, please send it to the editor by August 31.

Brenda Adams-Weyant
(814) 927-8212
[email protected]

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NACPRO Honors Excellence through 2020 Awards Program

This year the NACPRO Board of Directors recognized 30 individuals, organizations, programs and projects this year. And even though we could not gather this summer to recognize the awardees in person, NACPRO produced a video award presentation and encouraged our awarded agencies to plan their own celebrations.

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.

As our awards committee members have stated many times, all the award nominations provide inspiration and great ideas that may be a solution to a challenge you have been facing. Contact information is included if you want to get more details.

Award nominations for 2021 will open in January.

Professional Lifetime Awards

Scott Bangle
Riverside Regional Park and Open Space District, California

Recently retired after nearly 40 years of service, Scott Bangle began his career as a park ranger in San Bernardino, and ended as Parks Director and General Manager of Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District. He was well known for the relationships he built with elected officials, peers, and especially staff. Under his direction, the district achieved CAPRA accreditation – a distinction that capped Scott’s career, which included achievements in financial accountability and management of over 100,000 acres of public land.

John Wicker
Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, California

John Wicker began his career in 1978 as a Lake Lifeguard. From that modest beginning, he has had a major impact on the parks and recreation industry. He built the mission of the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation, championed innovation, worked to build healthy communities, and advance social equity and cohesion.

John retired on March 26, 2020 after a nearly 42-year career, during which the depth and breadth of his accomplishments advanced the good work of parks in Los Angeles County -- and across the nation.

Professional Fellow Award

Jill Geller
Johnson County Park and Recreation District, Kansas

Starting as an aquatics instructor in 1980, Jill Geller has worked for 36 years for Johnson County, becoming executive director of the District in 2014. During her tenure, four new parks were opened comprising 2,500+ acres of land, partnerships were formed, including the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, and student fitness programs were created – to name just a few of her innovations and initiatives.

Jill has career-long activity at the state national levels in parks and recreation, donating her time, passion and expertise to the greater mission of well communities – in Kansas and across the country.

Outstanding Contributor Award

The Lazar Family
Fairfax County Park Authority, Virginia

The Lazar Family are the embodiment of citizen stewards, sharing their love of the environment and the natural work in both personal and tangible ways. In addition to volunteering with the Invasive Management Area Program, the family created an endowment – The Lazar Family Fund – to support natural resource efforts of Fairfax County parkland. The fund was established in memory of Tibor Lazar’s parents, Rita and Csaba Lazar, Hungarian immigrants, and their environmental legacy.

Outstanding Public Official Award

Suzan Prince
Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority, Georgia

Suzan Prince, chair of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority, is a tireless champion for the agency and all it does to improve the quality of life for area residents. She has led the effort to build new recreation facilities, has worked to grow programming and bring sports tourism dollars to the community. Ms. Prince is passionate about VLPRA, about the welfare of community residents, and about providing high-quality facilities for them.

Outstanding Support Organization Awards

Homefull Partnership at 2nd Street Market
Five Rivers MetroParks, Ohio

Like many cities across the country, Dayton, Ohio is challenged with food insecurity and food deserts – areas where it is difficult to find fresh food. Hunger-related issues affect over 17% of Dayton citizens. The Homefull Partnership at 2nd Street Market provides better access to fresh food, encourages healthy food choices incorporating fresh produce, broadens local farmers’ customer bases, and creates a more inclusive shopping space at the market.

The Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves
Lake County Forest Preserve District, Illinois

Since its creation in 2007, the Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves – led by a dedicated board of community leaders who donate their time, talent, connections, and resources – has raised over $21 million from 4,183 donors to extend and accelerate the agency mission. In 2019 the foundation worked with the forest preserves to establish and launch its first permanent endowment, in support of tree planting, reforestation and to maintain 20,000 acres of land that has been restored to ecological health, thereby creating an innovative public-private partnership.

Outstanding Volunteer Awards

Carol Hogan and Wesley Wolf
Lake County Forest Preserve District, Illinois

Wesley Wolf and Carol Hogan exemplify dedication and passion for natural areas restoration, as stewards and stewardship leaders. They are outgoing spokespersons with preserve visitors and fellow volunteers alike, engaging in conversations about the importance of conservation and restoration. Since becoming stewards, Carol and Wesley have donated over 14,000 hours themselves, and have guided other volunteers to an additional 19,700 hours of cutting invasive brush, and collecting and sowing native seed. In total, the group they lead has restored over 65 acres of woodland and 25 acres of wetland.

William (Bill) Dryburgh
Charlotte County Community Services, Florida

As an active member of the Charlotte County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for over 14 years, Bill Dryburgh has played an instrumental role in the improving the park system and quality of life in Charlotte County. For over a decade and a half, Bill has dedicated himself to advising on master plans, promoting national accreditation, supporting tax incentive initiatives, building and improving major parks and rec facilities, assisting with fundraising efforts, and helping with agency leadership structures. His hard work and passion show in all he does for the community.

Environmental/Conservation Awards

Meadow Ridge Area of Elk Creek
MetroParks, Butler County, Ohio

In creating the Meadow Ridge Area of Elk Creek, MetroParks of Butler County, Ohio identified, acquired, and repurposed a failing private golf course at little cost to the park system. 99.5% of the funding came from outside sources, including state and federal funds, a partnership with the Trust for Public Land, and a seller’s discount for the local match. This project is a model for other agencies faced with golf course closures in areas around the country – a national trend. Leveraging the situation, MetroParks created and restored their largest preserve to date, at 795 acres.

Holiday Lights Recycling
Great Parks of Hamilton County, Ohio

What began in 2014 as a simple outreach idea focusing on conservation initiatives, has evolved into a public service that Hamilton County residents eagerly anticipate every year. In 2019, nearly 12,000 pounds of holiday lights were gathered and processed, then refined into materials to reenter the manufacturing stream. The project kept nearly 45,000 strands of lights out of landfills and reduced mining of virgin materials, which is so environmentally damaging. The project is a partnership with the Hamilton County electronics recycling company, Cohen, that donated $2,000 back to Great Parks, with a matching gift that supports Great Parks’ ongoing conservation efforts.

Eugene A. Obregon Park Green Pilot Project
Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, California

Once plagued by water and energy inefficiencies due to aging infrastructure, the 1960s –era Obregon Park was transformed into a model of sustainability. The project resulted in: heat island effect mitigation; CO2, energy and water conservation; increased public safety; air and water pollution mitigation; and green space enhancement in economically disadvantaged East Los Angeles.

Historical/Cultural Facility Award

Re-Opening of the Miller House
Westchester County Parks, New York

General George Washington is arguably the most famous and revered person to have stayed at Miller House in North White Plains, NY, at the time of the American Revolution in 1776. Built nearly 40 years earlier in 1738, the Miller House had deteriorated due to lack of funding. It is now restored and open to the public, thanks to a combination of state and local funding partnerships.

Marketing Awards

Women in the Wild
San Diego County Parks and Recreation, California

The Women in the Wild program was created to encourage women to spend more time in nature, through education, training, and experiences that empower them to make outdoor recreation a way of life. Led for and by women, this program is in direct response to studies that show that women value outdoor experience, but, more than men, can sometimes be hesitant to engage.

Don’t be a Jerk Campaign
Forest Preserve District of Will County, Illinois

A public service campaign in the summer of 2019, tackling use problems in preserves, including littering, uncontrolled dogs, and inconsiderate trail users, took an “in your face” approach to changing bad behavior. Using a video series and social media posts, “Don’t be a Jerk” received local and national media attention -- and it worked! It got people talking about preserve courtesy, with overwhelmingly positive response from the public.

Operational Facility Award

Crestmore Manor – Park District Headquarters
Riverside Regional Park and Open-Space District, California

Crestmore Manor, the 1950s colonial revival home of local restaurateur and horse rancher W.W. “Tiny” Naylor, has served as the parks department headquarters since the 1970s. The addition of new construction in 2019 incorporates the original mansion, improvements made to the campus over four decades, as well as the beauty of the site itself adjacent to the Santa Ana River and Rancho Jurupa Park created a highly desirable and idyllic setting to work, meet, and celebrate.

Park & Recreation Facility - Class I Awards

Kayak Share
Metroparks, Toledo, Ohio

Metroparks Toledo partnered with Mercy Health to open FitPark Paddle, which includes the region’s first kayak share. The park is designed to immerse visitors in a total wetland experience with a spectacular 360-degree view of three interconnected marshland units near Lake Erie. FitPark Paddle is a great example of MetroPark Toledo’s commitment to provide unique experiences that encourage active outdoor recreation.

Mindfulness Walk

Stark Parks, Canton, Ohio

Partnering with the Stark Mental Health and Advocacy Recovery Agency, Stark Parks created a special spot dedicated for meditation and self-care. The 1-mile trail offers visitors ten stations, promoting: relaxation, focus and awareness, reflection, and embracing the present moment. Funded by both agencies, the project was also supported by local businesses. The Mindfulness Walk provides the community with an outdoor space for recovery and reflection where trees, water, fresh air, and peace can provide needed solace.

Park & Recreation Facility - Class II Awards

Santa Ysabel Nature Center
County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, California

Built on an 84-acre parcel donated by The Nature Conservancy for the purpose of building a nature center, the Santa Ysabel Nature Center is a 6,000-square-foot LEED Gold Certified facility. Indoor and outdoor interpretative exhibits concentrate on the natural world, showcasing the unique ecology and history of the surrounding area. The project connects to a 3.5-miles loop trail, amphitheater, and nature-based play area, all with direct access from inland North San Diego County cities.

Andy’s Unity Park

Sonoma County Regional Parks, California

Andy’s Unity Park grew from the community’s commitment to and belief in the healing power of parks. It was built to remember the life of a 13-year-old boy -- Andy Lopez -- who was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Deputy, while carrying an air rifle, which the deputy mistook for a real firearm. While the park will be forever connected to this tragedy, it has also contributed to the rebirth of a more unified community, and the promise of a healthier future for an underserved neighborhood previously lacking park and recreational opportunities.

Park & Recreation Program - Class I Awards

All-Inclusive Outdoor Adventure at Middlegrounds
Metroparks, Toledo, Ohio

This was Metroparks first large-scale program focusing on inclusivity, targeting people with varying abilities. Partnering with local agencies – the Ability Centre, the Epilepsy Center, and the Lucas County DD Board – the program provided an opportunity to recreate safely, supporting physical and mental wellness. All of the350 attendees were able to try every offering, with lasting results, including a 30% increase in inclusive outreach programming.

Rec-n-Roll Mobile Playground
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia

The Rec-n-Roll Playground brings the fun to the people by providing a recreation experience to underserved communities. Working in partnership with the Chesterfield County Police Athletic League, Rec-n-Roll offers a wide range of activities requiring no prior skills, so that no child feels excluded. Most attendees live in disadvantaged areas far from playgrounds or other safe places to play. Race, ethnicity, language, ability, and socioeconomic standing have no bearing on the quality of this innovative, unstructured play experience.

Park & Recreation Program - Class II Awards

First People Day at Rocky River Nature Center
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

A nearly 20-year-old program was refreshed and given new focus aligned to best practices for teaching Native American history, by working in partnership with the Lake Erie Native American Council. The updated program created a venue where stereotypes are challenged, new stories are told, and Native American voices are amplified. From an attendance for the old program hovering around 500, the new program draws more than three times that number – attendees who are fascinated to learn something new about the ancient, and contemporary, history of their home community.

Nature Ninja Warrior Program
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, Florida

Designed to grow parks and rec professionals of the future, the Nature Ninja Warriors Program targeted middle school students in underserved urban and rural communities. They engaged in “real world” experiences in environmental recreation -- emphasizing job, life, and leadership skills. Post program follow-up demonstrated that 85% of participants improved proficiency in key areas such as: teamwork, friendship skills, affinity for nature, and problem solving.

Planning Initiative Awards

Los Angeles County Master Plan for Sustainable Parks and Recreation: Phase I
Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, California

The Sustainable Parks and Recreation Plan Phase I creates 14 new urban parks for 6 of LA county’s most park-poor communities that also experience low income and high levels of child obesity and crime rates. The plan was developed in partnership with Regional Planning, Public Health, Public Works, community residents, and community-based non-profit organizations. The result is an assessment and prioritization of local park needs and a green space vision for populations most in need.

Lakewood Master Plan
Lake County Forest Preserve District, Illinois

Master planning one of the largest and oldest preserves in the Lake County Forest Preserve District was a complicated undertaking. Years of facility location and major public programming had taken its toll. Accomplished by working across departments -- and directly with the public -- the new plan provides a compact, efficient design, with right-sized infrastructure, significant reduction in annual operating costs, is ADA complaint, and respects the site’s natural resources. The redevelopment of Lakewood Forest Preserve will positively impact the quality of life for residents for generations, and will serve as a model for future District planning.

Removing Barriers Initiative Awards

Adaptive Athlete CrossFit Program
Buncombe County Recreation Services, North Carolina

People with intellectual or physical disabilities are often left on the sidelines when it comes to fitness. One of the first of its kind, the Adaptive Athlete CrossFit Program incorporates exercise with inclusive techniques. The goal is to prepare participants for daily life and remove barriers to exercise. Designed to foster independence, training with others who faces similar challenges helps everyone understand their own potential, and leads to improved quality of life.

Adaptive Kayaking and Archery
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia

Partnering with Sportable, an adaptive sports club for those with physical disabilities, Chesterfield County Parks offers kayaking and archery in adaptive settings to great success. Program staff have become a resource for similar programs in the region. Small success achieved in each class by each individual feed into – and support -- the larger goal of physical and emotional independence for participants. THAT is the ultimate satisfaction!

Trails & Corridors - Class I Award

Columbus Dragonfly Trail
Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, Columbus, Georgia

Dragonfly Trail Network is part of Columbus’ 34-mile, off-road greenway trails system. It provides connectivity for trail users, and makes the city more walkable, bike-able -- and healthier! Long a city of cars, Columbus has become a community that advocates for and demonstrates what trails can mean for quality of life.

Brainchild of two civic leaders – Ken Henson and Betsy Covington – Dragonfly Trails Network is a wonderful example of the success that comes with a public-private partnership.

Trails & Corridors - Class II Award

Valley Parkway Connector Trail
Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

The six-mile Valley Parkway Connector Trail was laid out more than 100 years ago as part of park founder William Stinchcomb’s vision of an interconnected “emerald necklace. “ With this vision realized, bicyclists and pedestrians finally have access to 33 consecutive miles of paved, off-road, shared-use trails before reaching the Towpath Trail, part of the statewide Ohio to Erie Trail, and on to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Using local, private, state and federal funding, strong partnerships allowed for outreach to the community, and resulted in positive solutions to trail-building challenges.

NACPRO | PO Box 74, Marienville, PA 16239 | (814) 927-8212