Metro Parks named finalist for national Gold Medal Award

Winner of top honors in parks and recreation industry to be announced in September

For the second time in three years, Metro Parks Tacoma is a finalist for the top honor in the parks and recreation industry.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities that demonstrate excellence through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition.

“This award is the top of our profession, and it is a great privilege to be a finalist with other outstanding park systems,” said Aaron Pointer, president of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “Our staff, volunteers and partners strive to be the best of the best, and we owe much of our success to people and organizations who enhance our efforts to serve the community.”

The Gold Medal Awards program is administered by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Applications are separated into seven classes, with five classes based on population, one class for armed forces recreation, and one class for state park systems.

Metro Parks highlighted a variety of significant accomplishments in its application, including:

* Opening the Pacific Seas Aquarium and Eastside Community Center in 2018.

* Transforming a contaminated Superfund site into an incredible waterfront park that opens this summer.

* Creating the Elementary Sports Program and Whole Child Access Pass to overcome geographic and economic barriers that make it harder for children to participate in recreational opportunities.

* Expanding environmental and conservation education from pre-school through high school, and implementing programs such as the Ocean-Friendly Restaurant campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

“I’m proud of how hard our staff works to listen to the community and deliver the services they want. And we are delivering more services than ever before thanks to extraordinary cooperation and resource sharing among other agencies and organizations,” said Shon Sylvia, Executive Director of the park district.

Metro Parks’ Gold Medal Award application also highlights the diversity of the park district’s assets, which include 760-acre Point Defiance Park, two nationally accredited zoos; sports complexes; pools and spraygrounds; community centers; a marina; the nationally accredited Fort Nisqually Living History Museum; community gardens; Meadow Park Golf Course, and a Victorian-style conservatory inside an arboretum. Established in 1907, Metro Parks is the oldest independent park district in the state of Washington.

The application includes a video (, which highlights some of the accomplishments and offerings.

Metro Parks is a Gold Medal Award finalist in the category for systems serving a population of 150,000 to 400,000. The other finalists in that category are the recreation and park systems in Norfolk, Va.; Tampa, Fla., and Greensboro, N.C. Metro Parks was previously a Gold Medal Award winner in 1985 and 1992, and a finalist in 2017.

Winners will be announced during the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference in September.

– Metro Parks