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The National Gold Medal Awards are governed and managed by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association, and proudly sponsored by Musco Lighting.

Watch the March 9 Virtual Recording of the 2021 National Gold Medal Question & Answer Session.

2021 - National Gold Medal Award FINALISTS

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Musco Lighting,LLC continues its 20+ years as the proud sponsor of the National Gold Medal Awards program.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the United Statesthat 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 sevenclasses, with five classes based on population, one class for armed forces recreation and one class, awarded on odd numbered years, for state park systems.

Agencies are judged on their ability toaddress the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials. Four finalists in each class are chosen to compete for grand honors each year.

In announcing the 2021 Finalists, AAPRA Executive Director Jane H. Adams shared, “Each Finalist is congratulated forreceivingthis prestigious award. We know local communities, state park systems, and military installations worldwide met the challenge of being responsive to the changing demands of delivering services during the COVID 19 pandemic. Park visitors and program participants have come to rely upon their service provider for physical, mental, and emotional support during this pandemic.  The Academy congratulates each Finalist for their management excellenceduring this unprecedented time.”

The 2021Gold Medal finalists are:

Class I (population 400,001 and over)

  • Chicago Park District, Chicago, Illinois
  • Cleveland MetroParks, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Virginia BeachParks & Recreation, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Class II (population 150,001 –400,000)

  • Chesterfield County Parks & Recreation, Chester, Virginia
  • Des Moines Parks and Recreation, Des Moines, Iowa
  • City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department, Tampa, Florida
  • City of Wichita Parks & Recreation, Wichita, Kansas

Class III (population 75,001–150,000)

  • City of New Braunfels Parks and Recreation, New Braunfels, Texas
  • Provo Parks & Recreation, Provo, Utah
  • South Bend Venues Parks & Arts, South Bend, Indiana
  • Waukegan Park District,Waukegan, Illinois

Class IV (population 30,001 –75,000)

  • Centerville-Washington Park District, Centerville, Ohio
  • Coppell Parks and Recreation, Coppell, Texas
  • Grapevine Parks and Recreation, Grapevine, Texas
  • Park District of Oak Park, Oak Park, Illinois

Class V (population less than 30,000)

  • East Goshen Township Parks and Recreation, West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Deerfield Park District, Deerfield, Illinois
  • Town of Fountain HillsCommunity Services, Fountain Hills, Arizona
  • Vernon Hills Park District, Vernon Hills, Illinois

Armed Forces Recreation

  • Naval Submarine Base,Kings Bay, Georgia
  • Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Florida
  • Naval Base Coronado, San Diego, California
  • USArmy Garrison Bavaria, Grafenwoehr, Germany

State Parks

  • DelawareState Parks
  • Ohio Division of State Parks & Watercraft
  • Tennessee State Parks
  • Texas State Parks

A panel of five parkand recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials. Judges are chosen for their considerable experience and knowledge in parks and recreation on both the local and national levels.

This year’s finalists will compete for Grand Plaque Award honor, and the seven Grand Plaque recipients will be announced at the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, Sept.21-23,2021.

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The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration is a non-profit organization founded to advance knowledge related to the administration of recreation and parks; to encourage scholarly efforts by both practitioners and educators that would enhance the practice of park and recreation administration; to promote broader public understanding of the importance of parks and recreationto the public good; and, to conduct research, publish scholarly papers and sponsor seminars related to the advancement of park and recreation administration. For more information, visit  

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates —the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

Musco Lighting, LLC is a company that has specialized in lighting systems for sports andlarge areas for more than 30 years. Musco has pioneered dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and affordable ways to control wasted spill light and glare. Permanent and temporary lighting services range from neighborhood fields to NASCAR super speedways. For more information, visit

The National Gold Medal Awards are Proudly Sponsored by Musco Lighting.