NRPA Recognizes Excellence in Parks and Recreation with the Innovation and Spotlight Awards

(June 10, 2021)

Awards, Scholarships and Fellowships to be presented at the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference

Ashburn, Va. (June 10, 2021) — The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) today announced the recipients of this year’s NRPA Innovation Awards and NRPA Spotlight Awards. The awards will be presented during the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference, in September 2021, when NRPA will announce the winner of its Best in Innovation Award, which recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation.  

The NRPA Innovation Awards recognize park and recreation agencies nationwide that have improved and strengthened their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation and social equity.The recipients of this year’s awards are as follows:   

Innovation in Conservation Award
Ocala Wetland Recharge Park, City of Ocala, Ocala, Florida

Innovation in Health Award
Healthy U: A Series of Conversations, Port St. Lucie Parks and Recreation, Port St. Lucie, Florida

Innovation in Park Design Award
Westwood Hills Nature Center Interpretive Center Building Project, City of St. Louis Park, Operations and Recreation, Westwood Hills Nature Center, St. Louis Park, Minnesota

Innovation in Social Equity Award
Re-Connecting Cleveland: Pathways to Opportunity TIGER Grant Project, Cleveland Metroparks, Cleveland, Ohio

One of the Innovation Award winners will be selected by the NRPA National Awards and Scholarship Committee to receive the 2021 Best in Innovation Award. The winner of Best in Innovation will be announced during the virtual portion of the 2021 NRPA Conference in September.

NRPA Spotlight Awards are presented to individuals to honor their efforts — both professional and personal — in the field of parks and recreation. The following individuals are recognized with NRPA Spotlight Awards:  

Robert M. Artz Advocate Award
Bruce Rinker, Cleveland Metroparks board of park commissioners, Cleveland Metroparks, Cleveland, Ohio

Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award
Chris Bass, assistant director, City of Douglasville, Douglasville, Georgia

RWJF-NRPA Award for Health Equity
Emilie Harmeyer, ShreveCorps program director, Shreveport Green, Shreveport, Louisiana

National Distinguished Professional Award
Randy Bina, executive director, Bismarck Parks and Recreation District, Bismarck, North Dakota

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research
Alan Ewert, professor emeritus, Indiana University

NRPA Scholarships and Fellowships provide recipients with the opportunity to attend and explore the operation of the field at the NRPA Annual Conference, which will be held both in Nashville, Tennessee, and on a virtual platform in September 2021.

Young Professional Fellowship
Kristen Herndon, City of Greensboro
Christopher Levis, Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department
Gentry Thiesen, City of Wichita

Diversity Scholarship
Chamreece Diggs, Greensboro Parks and Recreation
Joseph L. Godette, City of Greensboro

Student Scholarship
Matt Daniel Colwell, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Celeste Morales, California State University, East Bay

“NRPA is proud to recognize innovative projects and programs at park and recreation agencies, as well as the incredible work by these dedicated individuals,” said Kristine Stratton, NRPA president and CEO. “Congratulations to this year’s winners who have demonstrated their commitment to building communities through parks and recreation.”

“The NRPA National Awards and Scholarship Committee is pleased to honor the 2021 NRPA recipients of the Innovation and Spotlight Awards , as well as the Scholarship and Fellowship recipients,” said Jennifer Basham, chair of NRPA’s National Awards and Scholarship Committee and parks and recreation department director for City of Burleson Texas. “The committee was honored and excited to review applications of qualified initiatives and individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities through the field of parks and recreation.”

To learn more about NRPA Innovation Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA Spotlight Awards, click here.

To learn more about all NRPA Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit


About the National Recreation and Park Association
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  For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit