Positive impacts help create golden experiences
A message from Park Board Commissioner Erik Hanberg
What are five things Metro Parks Tacoma does that have a positive impact on the community?
That’s a question on the application for the National Gold Medal — the highest award in the parks and recreation industry.
Wait — we can only list five? This is like asking, “Which of your children do you love the most?”
Knowing that we’ll be compared against the best parks and recreation agencies in the nation, let’s think about the things that are innovative and make us stand out from the rest.
Point Defiance Park seems like a no-brainer. But will the word counts enable us to communicate the breadth of value of the innovative Science and Math Institute? What about Fort Nisqually Living History Museum with its National Historic Landmark and more than 100 volunteer re-enactors who transport visitors to life in the 1860s?
Ruston Way features several miles of scenic waterfront access — that’s got to be worth a lot of points to the award judges. Not to mention the $198 million park bond approved by voters in 2014 that’s enabling us to make improvements in every corner of the city.
Two nationally-accredited zoos recognized for their contributions to species recovery and commitment to conservation engagement activities for people of all ages. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park are spearheading several community initiatives, including the Ocean Friendly Restaurant campaign and the Wildlife Champions program at Arlington Elementary.
The popular Elementary Sports Program provides after-school recreational activities on-site to thousands of students at all elementary schools in Tacoma. Our arts programs are growing fast, and we’re working with local artists who are creating thoughtful public art pieces to share with the community. We created a program called Guard Start that provides free swim and life guard instruction for teenagers in underserved areas.
Whoa. That’s a lot more than five. In the end, as we winnowed down the list, these were the positive impacts our staff chose to highlight in response the quest posed in the National Gold Medal Award application:
- We opened the Eastside Community Center, thanks to innovative financing and programming partnerships.
- We transformed STAR Center into a “Winter Wonderland” themed-event that created positive, sensory-appropriate experiences for children with disabilities and their families.
- The Adaptive Recreation group partners with U.S. Paralympics and hosted the 16-team Northwest President’s Cup wheelchair basketball tournament.
- We created the Whole Child Access Pass to give school kids easy access to programs and facilities.
- And we transformed a Superfund site into Dune Peninsula and the Wilson Way pedestrian bridge that finally provides a direct connection between Point Defiance Park and Ruston Way.
Our staff chose very well. We earned the top score for that question. And there were eight other questions in the application, so we mentioned all of those other items, too.
We’re over-the-moon excited to win the 2019 National Gold Medal Award. But, beyond our excitement we are grateful. It’s with the greatest of appreciation that we applaud our hard-working staff, passionate volunteers, donors, corporate partners, and of course all of you who appreciate, use and value what we offer.
Erik Hanberg has served as a member of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners since 2010.