HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – Hillsborough County has been honored as having one of the top parks and recreation programs in the country.
Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation is one of four national finalists in the Class 1 category for the 2022 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration announced. Class 1 includes the nation’s largest parks and recreation departments, serving populations of more than 400,000.
One of the four departments will receive the highest award, the Grand Plaque, in September. Each finalist sends the judges a short video highlighting their department. Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation’s video is introduced by wrestling superstar and WWE Global Ambassador Titus O’Neil.
Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation highlights include:
- A wide array of programs and facilities to keep residents active no matter their age or ability, including youth sports leagues, programs like Move! Hillsborough and the annual Hiking Spree, and the new Wellness Access Pass, which provides affordable access to fitness centers and gym activities.
- An adaptive sports program that now includes approximately 300 athletes in 26 sports programs, including wheelchair basketball and football, archery, swimming, and track and field events.
- Creation of a state-of-the-art, 10,000-square-foot inclusive playground at Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr. All People’s Community Park and Life Center.
- Transforming the property that once held a decommissioned sewage plant into the popular Carrollwood Village Park, which now includes a skatepark, playground with splash pad, walking trails, outdoor amphitheater, environmental center, and an arboretum.
- A new esports program that includes gaming lounges at Northdale Park and Emanuel P. Johnson Park.
- Relationships with more than 180 community partners, including the Positive Coaching Alliance, Boys & Girls Club, Tampa Bay Lightning, Keeping Tampa Bay Beautiful, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Parks & Recreation’s mission is “enhancing lives through people, parks, and enjoyable experiences.” The department serves 1.5 million residents and manages and maintains a wide range of facilities, including 53 recreation centers, six fitness centers, five skate parks, nine off-leash dog parks, and 47 sports complexes.
The sports complexes include 170 baseball and softball fields, 30 football fields, 53 soccer fields, and three lacrosse fields. In addition, there are 104 non-programmed neighborhood parks with 1,200 acres of open space, 44 miles of walking paths, and 118 playgrounds, courts, and picnic shelters.
Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors park and recreation agencies in the United States and military installations worldwide that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and community engagement.
Applicants are placed into six classes, with five based on population and one class for armed forces installations. The award is given by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.