The City of Norman Parks & Recreation Department is pleased to have claimed three awards at the Oklahoma Recreation and Park Society 2021 Conference, to include: Excellence in Programming, Excellence in Facility or Project and Young Professional Award.
The Conference took place November 3-5, 2021, in Midwest City and was attended by several department members.
“It has been an honor to take home multiple awards from this year’s conference,” said Director Jason Olsen. “We are incredibly proud of our team and their commitment to providing topmost recreational services to the community, especially during a year of such challenge. We appreciate the support and resilience of our citizens as well, as their participation and outreach are what makes the Parks & Recreation programming and projects a true success.”
Excellence in Programming Award
The Excellence in Programming Award was earned in recognition of the “Locally Loud: Stay Home, Be Social” initiative. The initiative was created by the City of Norman Parks and Recreation Department in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a desire to serve residents and local businesses in a way that could make the most positive impact during such an unprecedented time. The multifaceted, 4-month program focused on supporting local businesses and musicians by combining virtual how-to classes and concerts with discount opportunities at local restaurants, creating a fun and safe space at home for everyone and an occasion to support local businesses. The program – sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce groups, Visit Norman and Norman Next – culminated in a virtual Daddy-Daughter Dance which saw nearly 500 participants.
Excellence in Facility/Project Award
The Excellence in Facility/Project Award was earned in recognition of renovations made to the public skatepark at Andrews Park, which were celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in November 2020. The skatepark first opened in 2000 and included all-steel park amenities with multiple ramps, a half-pipe, grind ledges and various rails, stairs and box features. As a popular site, continual use called for renovations and upgrades to the area; funding by way of $1.2M was identified through a quality-of-life bond program to do so. Parks & Recreation worked with partners and contractors to identify needs and priorities of the skateboarding community, which resulted in the design of a new in-ground park of 20,000 sq. ft. with a triple-bowl, 56-long X 6' high Mini-Ramp, Skate Plaza, hundreds of feet of grind ledges, coping and banks, natural rock features, skate-able approach paths, accessible routes to and through the space, and several custom shaped concrete features. The designers met a goal of “creating a harmonious skatepark that combined beauty and functionality of an ‘All Wheel’ park.” One special feature from the project was the disassembling and relocation all above-ground ramps from the original park to various new concrete slabs in neighborhood parks to create "Skate Spots" around town. Another winning feature was the fulfillment of the skaters' wishes for lights (instead of shade structures) for the park, which are programmable and energy-efficient to increase the longevity and consistency of brightness on the multi-surface space. The City of Norman intends to host local and regional skate events at this state-of-the-art park in years to come.
Young Professional Award: Mitchell Richardson
Recreation Supervisor Mitchell Richardson was honored with the Young Professional Award, after serving with the Parks & Recreation Department for 12 years. He currently supervises the 12th Avenue Recreation Center and oversees many citywide special events. He also contributes to marketing and communication efforts for the department, as a content manager for the department’s webpages and an administrator for social media platforms. City leadership describe Richardson as a cornerstone of the Norman Parks and Recreation Department, and admire his dedication, commitment and high character. Recently, Richardson and colleagues have participated in two citywide teams spanning multiple departments as part of the Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which draws upon citizen input to boost relevance and excitement in after-school programming. After forming, considering and evaluating several concepts, Richardson’s team developed a mobile pop-up to take parks programming into lower-income parts of the city and surrounding areas that are some distance away from its three recreation centers. Richardson also spearheaded, separately, an initiative that included three pop-up park events at different parks around Norman on three consecutive Sundays in September 2021. These “Community Play in the Park” events provided Storytime with the Pioneer Library, water fun with the Norman Fire Department and free lunch cooked by the Norman Police Department, as well as field games and other recreational activities. These events served more than 600 community members. Richardson is commended for continued service to the community and strides made with a national project that will be used as a programming framework for Norman and other organizations for years to come.
The Mission of the Oklahoma Recreation and Parks Society, a 501-C3, is to provide professionals with leadership, educational, personal and professional development opportunities to promote the importance of quality environmental, cultural, recreational and park services. Find more information at orps.us.