Lawrence Parks and Rec named finalist for national award

photo by: Libby Stanford/Journal-World File Photo

This Journal-World file photo from July 26, 2018, shows South Park in downtown Lawrence.

The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is vying for a national award, and officials are hoping this will be the year they take home the top honor.

The department is one of four finalists this year for the National Recreation and Park Association’s Gold Medal Award, which recognizes excellence in parks and recreation management. This is the fourth year the city has been named a finalist, with the most recent time being in 2015.

The department’s marketing supervisor, Roger Steinbrock, said he is thankful to the community of Lawrence, as it has always supported the department.

“We look at all the parks, the trail systems, the bike lanes,” Steinbrock said. “Lawrence is a community that loves its quality of life, and I think it’s very present with our Parks and Recreation department.”

The award honors communities that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and innovative approaches to delivering superb parks and recreation services with fiscally sound business practices, according to the award’s website. The website states that a panel of five parks and recreation professionals, picked for their experience and knowledge on both local and national levels, reviews and judges all application materials.

Lawrence Parks and Rec manages 54 parks and nature areas, four recreation centers, two aquatic centers, 85 miles of trails, a nature center, a golf course, and sports, activities and events for all age groups, according to its website.

Steinbrock said the department highlighted several aspects in its application materials, including free access to recreation centers and the department’s involvement in community health and wellness initiatives. Steinbrock mentioned the tobacco-free parks policy, childhood nutrition education program, and participation in initiatives such as LiveWell Douglas County.

Since being named a finalist in 2015, Steinbrock said a major improvement has been the creation of the department’s new master plan. A 16-member steering committee put together the 10-year plan, which replaces one created in 2000 and includes guidance for future development and ideas to fund new facilities and programs.

Ultimately, Steinbrock said, it’s the community that has allowed the department to do what it does on a daily basis, and the department strives to be accountable to the community.

“It’s about the quality and the standards that we’ve tried to implement, and keeping high standards for the things we do,” Steinbrock said. “We try to be accountable as best we can with the community and the dollars that they give us to do what we do.”

The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is a finalist is the class three category, which includes cities with populations between 75,001 and 150,000. The other three finalists are Bloomington, Ind.; Evanston, Ill.; and Greeley, Colo.

The winner of the Gold Medal Award will be announced at the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference in Indianapolis, Ind., on Tuesday.


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