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Johnson County Park & Recreation District named one of four finalists for prestigious national award
POSTED: 05/16/2017
“To be nationally recognized in this manner is a huge honor, and to be recognized in back to back years is even more impressive,” said JCPRD Executive Director Jill Geller. “We take seriously our mission of providing high quality parks, programs, and services that enhance the lives of the residents of Johnson County. Being a national Gold Medal Finalist is validation that we’re doing good work to that end. “

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the U.S. which demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition. Applications are separated into seven classes, with five classes based on population, one class for armed forces recreation, and one class for state park systems awarded on odd-numbered years.

JCPRD is a finalist in Class I, which is for agencies serving a population over 400,000, and is the largest of the five population-based categories. The district was previously a finalist in 1991, 1993, 1994, and 2016. The agency won the Gold Medal Award in 1995.

The district offers more than 4,000 programs and activities each year, and it manages over 9,900 acres of parkland, more than 90 miles of trails, and multiple recreational facilities. A recent study by The Trust for Public Land, found that JCPRD parks, trails and programs are key economic drivers which contribute more than $97 million annually in economic benefits to the community. Last year alone there were 2.5 million participations in the programs presented by JCPRD, and 7 million visitations to the district’s parks.

For the Gold Medal Awards, agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials. JCPRD joins three other finalists in their class that will compete for grand honors this year. The other 2017 Class I finalists are BREC, Baton Rouge, La., Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Minneapolis, Minn. and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, Lake Worth, Fla.

Through a series of short essays required as part of the application process, JCPRD emphasized partnerships, conservation efforts, and public safety/outdoor education programs. Recent partnerships have included working with the city of Prairie Village on the development of the future Meadowbrook Park, working with Johnson County on the construction of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center in the former King Louie Building, and partnering with the Shawnee Mission School District for the district to operate and manage a recently-announced new aquatic stadium in Lenexa. Conservation efforts have included the planting of 130 acres of native prairie plants over the past three years. The application also highlighted the dual roles of Johnson County Park Police officers in law enforcement and outdoor education.

Asked how the agency has positively impacted the community in the past three years, officials noted the agency’s 4,000 programs and events serve 2.5 million participations. Highlights included the Kansas City Corporate Challenge, which in 2016 involved 32,000 participants from 220 companies, Ernie Miller Nature Center with its new permanent exhibit that attracted 31,000 visitors within its first months of operation, JCPRD’s Out of School Time programs that impact 1,800 children daily, and the Johnson County Museum that is preparing to open a new 17,877-square-foot exhibit at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center.

A panel of five park and recreation professionals will review and judge all application materials, including five-minute videos the finalist organizations submit in early June. Judges are chosen for their considerable experience and knowledge in parks and recreation on both the local and national levels.

This year’s finalists will compete for Grand Plaque Award honors this summer, and the Grand Plaque recipient in each of the categories will be announced in September at the 2017 NRPA Annual Conference in New Orleans.

For more information on the Gold Medal Awards, visit or

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration is a non-profit organization founded to advance knowledge related to the administration of recreation and parks; to encourage scholarly efforts by both practitioners and educators that would enhance the practice of park and recreation administration; to promote broader public understanding of the importance of parks and recreation to the public good; and, to conduct research, publish scholarly papers and sponsor seminars related to the advancement of park and recreation administration. For more information, visit

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to parks and recreation for health, conservation and social equity. Through its network of nearly 60,000 recreation and park professionals and advocates, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

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