Hillsborough County, Fla. (May 28, 2024) - For the third year in a row, 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 2024 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.

Only one department will receive the highest award, the Grand Plaque, in October. Each finalist sends the judges a short video highlighting their department.

The achievements of Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation and its impacts on the community include:

  • The department offered more than 1,700 partnered, athletic programs with 503,000 visits annually. More than 180 partners provide programming, including 49 Youth Sports Partner Organizations, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
  • The County opened its first public performing arts center last year, the New Tampa Performing Arts Center. The department manages 167 parks, 223 sports fields, 118 playgrounds, 51 recreation centers, 47 athletic complexes, 10 dog parks, five splash pads, and three cultural centers.
  • Parks & Recreation serves more than 6,000 youth each year through afterschool, summer camp, and sports programming.
  • Miller Park & Life Center serves as the home of the County's adaptive sports programming and includes a 10,000-square-foot inclusive playground, 3,200-square-foot all-abilities splash pad, and an adaptive archery range. Last year, 412 athletes participated in 35 adaptive sports programs.
  • Hillsborough County Adaptive Sports is the only team representing a government agency in the USA Wheelchair Football League (USAWFL) and has hosted an USAWFL tournament at the Tampa Convention Center each year since 2022.
  • Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation partnered with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to host more than 20 tournaments in 2022 and 2023. Additional community partners include the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ($4.5 million investment in seven recreation centers), the Boys & Girls Club (programming for 122,000 youth annually), and the Tampa Bay Lightning ($1.1 million investment in outdoor hockey rinks and programming.)
  • The Wellness Access Pass was created to promote healthy lifestyles. For $10 per month, participants receive access to County-owned fitness centers and open gyms. The affordability and variety of activities ensure accessibility to all community members. Since implementation, registration rose from 1,963 passes in 2019 to 8,169 passes in 2023.
  • The Hillsborough County Hiking Spree is an annual event that encourages residents to "Take a hike!'' and highlights trails that encompass everything from paved neighborhood trails to primitive treks. Since 2017, over 32,000 residents have explored the County's trails while engaging in a healthy activity.
  • The County invested more than $1 million in building 10 state-of-the-art outdoor fitness zones throughout Hillsborough.

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.

Image Caption: The splash pad at Lesley "Les'' Miller Jr. All People's Community Park & Life Center is a swashbuckling adventure for children of all ages and abilities.
Posted: 5/28/2024, 12:26:09 PM