Itasca Park District wins national award for the third time
Itasca Park District once again has received national recognition for being at the top of its game.
The agency this week became a three-time winner of the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. It received the award Tuesday during the National Recreation and Park Association's annual conference in New Orleans.
"We were completely ecstatic, completely shocked," Executive Director Maryfran Leno said Thursday from New Orleans. "We didn't know if we were going to get it this year. But we're very excited to win it a third time. Not many agencies have won it three times."
The Gold Medal program recognizes districts that excel in long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Applicants are divided into seven classes, including five based on population.
Itasca previously earned gold medals in 2009 and 2003.
This year, it won in the class for park districts serving populations of less than 30,000.
"Just becoming a finalist is a great honor," Leno said. "We really focused on everything that we have been able to do for our community with the amount of grant money we've received over the years and our innovative programing."
Leno said park officials have worked with residents to give them what they want.
The district has 144 acres of parks, playgrounds, a nature center, a bird sanctuary, a water park, a depot museum and a 40,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center. It serves roughly 9,200 residents.
"As small as we are, we can do the exact same things as the bigger agencies" Leno said.
Park officials have been given a plaque they plan to present to the community.
"I don't think we need a plaque to let our community know we are the best at what we do," Leno said. "But it's nice to be recognized by your peers. It's kind of like the Oscars or the Emmys of the park district world."