Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Golden Myths

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Golden Myths

Article excerpt

A myth: An idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true.

- Merriam Webster Dictionary

The National Gold Medal Award Program distinguishes the best of the best in the park and recreation profession, and the Gold Medal for Park and Recreation Management is the highest award you can achieve for your agency. It is available through a partnership between NRPA and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (Academy). Applying for the Gold Medal provides your agency with opportunities to chronicle your successes in your various program areas, management structure, fiscal responsibility and service, while celebrating the innovative and creative approaches you use to solve day-to-day challenges in your community.

During the past three years, almost 200 municipal, county or special district agencies have applied to compete in five population categories:

Class V - 30,000 or less

Class IV - 30,001-75,000

Class III - 75,001-150,000

Class II -150,001-400,000

Class I - 400,001 and over

NRPA and the Academy encourages agencies interested in pursuing this award to visit and reach out to other Gold Medal-winning agencies in their state or region (the list of past winners can be found at goldmedal). You can also access an archived recording of the February 3 Live Chat about the Gold Medal at Gold-Medal-Award-Program.

The Gold Medal Award, established in 1967, has a long and prestigious history. But, like anything that lasts, myths have grown up during the past 49 years of success. Here are a few you may have heard, and the real, straight-up truth.


Myth 1:

You cannot win the Gold Medal on the first try

As the Director of Portland, Oregon Parks and Recreation, Mike Abbaté had heard this myth, and so was content to be named a finalist in 2011. Imagine his surprise when Portland's small delegation to the NRPA Congress in Atlanta was called to the stage as the Class I Winner! It turns out that Portland's story is not unique. In the past five years, more than 11 percent of all winners have been first-time applicants. So, don't let your inexperience or lack of previous awards discourage you - this could be YOUR year!

Myth 2:

You have to be a special district to win

Special Parks Districts are often seen as the Gold Standard of park and recreation providers. After all, they have their own elected officials, taxing authority and independence. In truth, there is much to be said about the benefits of being a park district. However, this does not necessarily translate to winning the NRPA Gold Medal. In the past five years, more than 90 percent of all winners have NOT been special districts - they have been municipal departments, bureaus or divisions of a city or county government. So, the Gold Medal is for everyone. If you are not a special district, don't count yourself out!

Myth 3:

You must be from an affluent community to win

With the statistical data required from applicants, judges have at their disposal several important pieces of information. They know the amount of funds allocated per capita in a particular jurisdiction. They also know the median income of the community. They have the total acres of parks, the numbers of facilities and the total employee count for each applying agency. …

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