2021 Finalists Announced for the National Gold Medal Awards in Parks and Recreation Management

(May 10, 2021)

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Musco Lighting, LLC continues its 20+ years as the proud sponsor of the National Gold Medal Awards program. 

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the United States that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Applications are separated into seven classes, with five classes based on population, one class for armed forces recreation and one class, awarded on odd numbered years, for state park systems.

Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials. Four finalists in each class are chosen to compete for grand honors each year.

In announcing the 2021 Finalists, AAPRA Executive Director Jane H. Adams shared, “Each Finalist is congratulated for receiving this prestigious award. We know local communities, state park systems, and military installations worldwide met the challenge of being responsive to the changing demands of delivering services during the COVID 19 pandemic. Park visitors and program participants have come to rely upon their service provider for physical, mental, and emotional support during this pandemic.  The Academy congratulates each Finalist for their management excellence during this unprecedented time.” 

The 2021 Gold Medal finalists are:

Class I (population 400,001 and over)

  • Chicago Park District Chicago, Illinois
  • Cleveland Metro Parks Cleveland, Ohio
  • Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Virginia Beach, Virginia

Class II (population 150,001 – 400,000)

  • Chesterfield County Parks & Recreation Chester, Virginia
  • Des Moines Parks and Recreation Des Moines, Iowa
  • City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department  Tampa, Florida
  • City of Wichita Parks & Recreation Wichita, Kansas

Class III (population 75,001 – 150,000)

  • City of New Braunfels Parks and Recreation New Braunfels, Texas
  • Provo Parks & Recreation Provo, Utah
  • South Bend Venues, Parks, and Arts South Bend, Indiana
  • Waukegan Park District Waukegan, Illinois

Class IV (population 30,001 – 75,000)

  • Centerville-Washington Park District Centerville, Ohio
  • Coppell Parks and Recreation Coppell, Texas
  • Grapevine Parks and Recreation Grapevine, Texas
  • Park District of Oak Park Oak Park, Illinois

Class V (population less than 30,000)

  • East Goshen Township Parks and Recreation West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Deerfield Park District Deerfield, Illinois
  • Town of Fountain Hills  Community Services Fountain Hills, Arizona
  • Vernon Hills Park District Vernon Hills, Illinois

Armed Forces Recreation

  • Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Kings Bay, Georgia
  • Naval Air Station Whiting Field Milton, Florida
  • Naval Base Coronado San Diego, California
  • US Army Garrison Bavaria Grafenwoehr, Germany

State Parks

  • Delaware State Parks
  • Ohio Division of State Parks & Watercraft
  • Tennessee State Parks
  • Texas State Parks

A panel of five park and recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials. Judges are chosen for their considerable experience and knowledge in parks and recreation on both the local and national levels.

This year’s finalists will compete for Grand Plaque Award honor, and the seven Grand Plaque recipients will be announced at the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Sept. 21-23, 2021.

For more information on the Gold Medal Awards, visit www.aapra.org/National-Gold-Medal-Award.


The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration is a non-profit organization founded to advance knowledge related to the administration of recreation and parks; to encourage scholarly efforts by both practitioners and educators that would enhance the practice of park and recreation administration; to promote broader public understanding of the importance of parks and recreation to the public good; and, to conduct research, publish scholarly papers and sponsor seminars related to the advancement of park and recreation administration. For more information, visit www.aapra.org.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit www.nrpa.org. For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit www.parksandrecreation.org.

Musco Lighting, LLC is a company that has specialized in lighting systems for sports and large areas for more than 30 years. Musco has pioneered dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and affordable ways to control wasted spill light and glare. Permanent and temporary lighting services range from neighborhood fields to NASCAR super speedways. For more information, visit www.musco.com.