NRPA Recognizes Excellence in Parks and Recreation With the Innovation and Spotlight Awards

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is excited to announce the recipients of this year’s NRPA Innovation Awards, Spotlight Awards, and Scholarships and Fellowships. The awards will be presented during the 2024 NRPA Annual Conference in October when NRPA will announce the winner of its Best in Innovation Award, which recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation. 

NRPA Innovation Awards recognize park and recreation agencies nationwide that have improved and strengthened their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation, and equity.

The recipients of this year’s awards are as follows:   

Innovation in Health Award

SwimSmart Initiative, Waukegan Park District, Waukegan, Illinois

Innovation in Equity Award

Signs of Belonging, Ramsey County Parks and Recreation, Maplewood, Minnesota

Innovation in Conservation Award

Ford Fair Lane Estate Fishway, Wayne County Parks and Recreation, Westland, Michigan

Innovation in Park Design Award

Glass City Metropark, Metroparks Toledo, Toledo, Ohio

NRPA Spotlight Awards are presented to individuals to honor their efforts — both professional and personal — in the field of parks and recreation.

The following individuals are recognized with NRPA Spotlight Awards:  

National Distinguished Professional Award

Michael McCarty, CPRP, Executive Director, Glenview Park District, Glenview, Illinois

Dirk Richwine Professional Mentoring Award

Ryan Davis, CPRE, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Miamisburg, Ohio 

Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award

Javier Martinez, CPRP, Manager of Fitness and Aquatics, Waukegan Park District, Waukegan, Illinois

Robert M. Artz Advocate Award

Mary Behling, Former Chairperson, Cambridge Community Activities Program, Cambridge, Wisconsin

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research

Dr. Clement Lau, Departmental Facilities Planner, Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, Los Angeles, California

NRPA Scholarships and Fellowships provide recipients with the opportunity to attend and explore the operation of the field at the NRPA Annual Conference.

Congratulations to our awardees in the following categories:  

Young Professional Fellowships

  • Christopher Harrison, CPRP, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation (Florida)
  • Miranda Maloy, CPRP, Lewisville Parks and Recreation (Texas)
  • Cassandra Paddock, CPRP, Schertz Parks, Recreation and Community Services (Texas)
  • Rachel Smith, CPRP, James City County Parks and Recreation (Virginia)

Diversity Scholarships

  • Gaby Bridges, CPRP, Layton City Parks and Recreation (Utah)
  • Nancy Xiong, Three Rivers Parks District (Minnesota)

Student Scholarships

  • Ezekiel Adesawe, Clemson University (South Carolina)
  • Athena Sexton, Appalachian State University (North Carolina)

“We are thrilled to celebrate this year’s winners who have demonstrated their commitment to the future of parks and recreation,” said Kristine Stratton, NRPA president and CEO. “NRPA is proud to recognize the innovative and transformative work that they, as community impact leaders, provide to their communities. We look forward to celebrating each of you in Atlanta at the 2024 NRPA Annual Conference!”

“The NRPA National Awards and Scholarship Committee is excited to recognize park and recreation agencies, professionals and students’ profound impact throughout our communities,” said Jeanette Aiello, chair of NRPA’s National Awards and Scholarship Committee and project and operations supervisor for Canton, Michigan. “With more than 200 applications, our committee was overly impressed by the outstanding achievements of each award winner.”

To learn more about NRPA Innovation Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA Spotlight Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA Scholarships and Fellowships, click here.

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