NRPA Honors Arborist With Inaugural Changing Nature of Work Award

The National Recreation and Park Association recently announced its first-ever Changing Nature of Work Award winner, in partnership with Merrell. The annual award recognizes an individual or team that has responded to natural disasters with a spirit of teamwork, community and perseverance to clean up, rebuild their park for usable enjoyment, and to support and advance resilience and well-being for their community.

The 2022 Changing Nature of Work Award was presented to Michael P. Cimprich, an arborist for the City of Marion, Iowa.

In August 2020, the City of Marion, along with many other communities across the Midwest, experienced heavy thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds up to 140 mph as part of the devasting “Central Severe Weather-Derecho.” Known as the “costliest thunderstorm event in U.S. history,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the derecho caused widespread power outages and damage to homes, trees, businesses and powerlines. More than 40% of public trees were lost, and many others on private property also were destroyed.

Once the storm subsided, Cimprich and his team worked to cut a path for emergency personnel and quickly began working on cleaning up the debris. Over the course of a few months, more than 1.2 million cubic yards of tree debris had been cleared, thanks to the work of Cimprich and his team.

Cimprich was crucial in leading the coordination effort between the city, contractors and other members of the community. Since the event, he has replanted more than 1,500 trees and secured more than $110,000 in grant funds to help support the effort. Cimprich  has been a fundamental part of the response, cleanup, replanting and reforestation effort within the City of Marion and demonstrates how essential park and recreation professionals are.

This is the first award presented by Merrell in partnership with NRPA and will highlight the essential role of local park and recreation professionals and contribute to NRPA’s workforce development goal of stewarding the next generation of diverse local park and recreation professionals.

“We are so excited to celebrate the excellent work that Mike Cimprich has provided for the community in a time of crisis,” said Kristine Stratton NRPA president and CEO. “We are proud to honor that work with the Changing Nature of Work Award and are grateful to Michael for being a community hero, proving that park and recreation professionals are essential.”

Cimprich will be sponsored by Merrell for one year and receive $2,500 in gear. He also will receive a cash prize of $10,000 to support a project in the City of Marion and has indicated he intends to use the funds to support ongoing replanting efforts.