ROSWELL, Ga. — Fans of Roswell’s parks have another reason to brag. After seven years in the running, Roswell’s Recreation and Parks Department has finally taken home the gold in a national competition, recognizing the city’s park system as one of the top seven in the country. Roswell is the first municipality in Georgia to receive this distinction.
“Winning this award is like our city winning the Super Bowl, World Series or an Oscar,” said Jeff Pruitt, interim director for Roswell Recreation and Parks.
On Sept. 26, Roswell was awarded the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. The honor is distributed yearly by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.
“This award is the result of many years of hard work, exemplified by the significant amount of qualified, dedicated and loyal employees we have had since our conception in 1965,” Pruitt said. “This is more than just an award — it is a belief in ourselves to provide quality recreational opportunities and parks for our community, which has transcended over several decades.”
Founded in 1965, the awards program recognizes excellence in long-range planning, resource management and program development. Volunteerism, environmental stewardship and professional development are also considered.
Gold Medal Awards are given to seven different classes — one for armed forces recreation, one for state park systems and five based on population size.
Roswell was one of four cities in the Class III section for a population size between 75,001-150,000. They faced off and won against departments in Arlington Heights, Ill.; Evanston, Ill., and Mountain View, Calif.
Only one other agency in Georgia, Gwinnett County, has earned this award, but Roswell is the only state municipality to gain this distinction.
Roswell’s Recreation, Parks, Historic and Cultural Affairs Department currently boasts more than 965 acres of parkland and 22 parks with 31 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. The park system offers hundreds of classes, programs and camps annually for residents and non-residents. The Southern Trilogy Historic House Museums – Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall and Smith Plantation – are all included in the department.
Over the past year, Roswell’s Recreation and Parks Department has implemented numerous new programs and additions to their system. This summer, it introduced an initiative to emphasize health and fitness with free fitness in the parks programs, festivals, contests and concerts.
Since December 2016, the department has completed Phase 4 of Riverwalk, adding close to a mile of boardwalk trails along the Chattahoochee River marshlands. Riverwalk is one of the first to be designated as a National Water Trail by the National Parks Service.
Over the past year, Roswell has also installed Geographic Information System Mapping to increase participation and maintenance in parks. The program identifies underserviced communities in the area and helps generate potential ideas for future programming and outreach.
Neighboring city Alpharetta was also named as a gold award finalist earlier this summer for a different class section, but ultimately lost to Bismark, N.D. This was Alpharetta’s first year competing.
The 2017 Gold Medal Grand Plaque recipients were announced live Sept. 26 in New Orleans at the National Recreation and Park Association annual conference. Other award recipients this year included departments in Kansas, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and Arizona.