Today Cleveland Metroparks won the prestigious 2016 National Gold Medal Award for excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Awarded by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the Gold Medal is one of the highest professional awards available to parks and recreation agencies nationwide and involves a stringent qualification and judging process.
This award is the fourth Gold Medal Award win for the Park District, and the first under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Brian M. Zimmerman who has been instrumental in initiating and executing several major initiatives, including the recently announced nearly $8 million TIGER grant aimed at reconnecting Cleveland.
With Zimmerman at the helm, Cleveland Metroparks saw its largest year of land acquisition since the 1960s under his tenure. Zimmerman's leadership guided the transformational acquisition of eight Lakefront parks, including the opening of Rivergate Park in the heart of Cleveland's urban core and the 155-acre Acacia Reservation, a formerly private space that is now accessible to the public and continues to be restored to its natural state. Zimmerman's vision has contributed to the revitalization of Cleveland by providing increased trail connections and greater accessibility to green space, which attracted nearly 18 million recreational visits in 2015.
"This award validates that our vision, backed by our strategic plan is on target," said Zimmerman. "We are focused on enhancing recreational opportunities and growing trail connections, especially in Cleveland's urban core. Accessibility is a guiding principle in everything we do."
The Gold Medal Award program honors communities in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Gold Medal Award winners were announced at NRPA's annual conference in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Cleveland Metroparks won the Class I category, the largest of five classes based on population served. The finalists in the category included BREC, in Baton Rouge, LA; Johnson County Park and Recreation District, in Shawnee Mission, KS; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, in Minnesota.
"This honor should be celebrated across Cleveland Metroparks organization. While the award specifically calls out outstanding management, this achievement is the result of the collective hard work and passion of each and every Park District employee," said Debbie Berry, Cleveland Metroparks Board of Commissioners President.
This recognition comes as Cleveland Metroparks prepares to enter its centennial year, celebrating 100 years of rich history.
Cleveland Metroparks long history of Gold Medal success includes wins in 1994, 2001 and 2007.