Metroparks named as finalist in national parks and rec group's ‘best in nation’ Gold Medal

Cleveland Metroparks Hemlock CreekCourtesy of Cleveland MetroparksCleveland Metroparks Hemlock Creek

Cleveland Metroparks has been named a finalist for the 2021 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation Management. Cleveland’s Emerald Necklace is among four finalists nationwide in the population category will compete for the “Best in Nation” award.

The competition is managed and governed by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors public park and recreation agencies and state park systems in the U.S. 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 six classes.

The Cleveland Metroparks is a finalist in the Class 1 category, representing the largest park systems across the country based upon population served.

The announcement follows a record-breaking year in 2020 for the Metroparks, with more than 19.7 million recreational visitors—the highest in its 103-year-history.

As the park system grows in both size and popularity locally, it continues to garner recognition among its peers nationwide.

"We are honored to be named as a finalist for the prestigious Gold Medal award alongside such great park systems across the country,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman in a statement. “This recognition is a testament to our team that goes above-and-beyond every day to strengthen our mission of conservation, education and recreation for all.”

Cleveland Metroparks has been awarded the Gold Medal four times in the program’s history—most recently in 2016. The Gold Medal program is one of the highest professional awards available to parks and recreation agencies nationwide and involves a stringent qualification and judging process.

Cleveland Metroparks now totals over 24,000 acres and over the last three years has built or rehabilitated over 27 miles of trails, enhancing the direct connectivity to 49 diverse communities.

A 2018 Trust for Public Land study revealed that Cleveland Metroparks generates an annual regional economic impact of $873 million by enhancing property values, reducing stormwater runoff, improving local health and wellness, and generating tourism.

Award recipients will be announced during the 2021 NRPA Conference, which will be held virtually and in person in September in Nashville, Tennessee.