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

Ashburn, VA (May 31, 2023)

Awards, Scholarships and Fellowships to be presented at the 2023 NRPA Annual Conference

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is excited to announce the recipients of this year’s NRPA Innovation Awards, Spotlight Awards and Scholarships and Fellowships. The awards will be presented during the 2023 NRPA Annual Conference in October when NRPA will announce the winner of its Best in Innovation Award, which recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation.  

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

Meadowdale Beach Park & Estuary Restoration Project, Snohomish County Parks & Recreation, Snohomish, Washington

Innovation in Health Award

Reducing Violence in Columbus - VOICE, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Columbus, Ohio

Innovation in Equity Award

SootheSpace, Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, Aurora, Illinois

Innovation in Park Design Award

Unity Park, City of Greenville Parks, Recreation & Tourism, Greenville, South Carolina


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:  

National Distinguished Professional Award

Janet Bartnik, CPRP, Deputy Director, Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Prince William, Virginia

Robert M. Artz Advocate Award

Jeffrey Budnitz, Executive Founding Board Member and Treasurer, Lake Roland Nature Council, Baltimore, Maryland

Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award

Laura Mortier, CPRP, Recreation Supervisor, Canton Leisure Services, Canton, Michigan

Dirk Richwine Professional Mentoring Award

Christopher M. Nunes, CPRE, Chief Operating Officer, The Woodlands Township, Woodlands, Texas


NRPA Scholarships and Fellowships provide recipients with the opportunity to attend and explore the operation of the field at the NRPA Annual Conference. Congratulations to our awardees in the following categories:  

Diversity Scholarship

  • Jamiah Flagg, City of Douglasville Parks and Recreation (Georgia)
  • Madison Green-Hayward, Tukwila Parks and Recreation (Washington)

Student Scholarship

  • Jason Lewis Cowley, Utah Tech University
  • Lindsey Batson, University of Missouri

Young Professional Fellowship

  • Haley Colucci, CPRP, Oak Brook Park District (Illinois)
  • Diana Correa, CPRP, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation (North Carolina)
  • Thamara Velasco, City of Douglasville Parks and Recreation (Georgia)
  • Taylor Witter, CPRP, CPO, Lisle Park District (Illinois)

“Congratulations to this year’s winners who have demonstrated their commitment to transformative work in parks and recreation,” said Kristine Stratton, NRPA president and CEO. “NRPA is proud to recognize innovative projects and programs, as well as the incredible work by these dedicated individuals. We look forward to celebrating your achievements in Dallas!”

“All across our great nation from Alaska to Florida, Parks and Recreation Professionals are doing some of the most important work in our communities,” said Donnie Hayes, chair of NRPA’s National Awards and Scholarship Committee, and Parks and Recreation Director for Fairbanks North Star Borough in Alaska. “NRPA’s National Awards and Scholarship Committee is excited to recognize some of the Best of the Best as a part of the 2023 NRPA Innovation and Spotlight Awards, including our Scholarship and Fellowship Awards. The process of evaluating hundreds of amazing projects, candidates, and nominations provides our committee with so many opportunities to swell with pride as we see a small sliver of the special work that is being accomplished. We say hurrah to all of our amazing awardees.”

To learn more about NRPA Innovation Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA Spotlight Awards, click here.

To learn more about NRPA Scholarships and Fellowships, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit


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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