Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has announced its 2017 Annual Awards of Excellence winners and a number of local agencies have been recognized.

Locally, the Clark County Park District won a 1st place award in the Natural Resources & Conservation category for the Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve project.

For decades, people had been trespassing to climb on the rock cliffs in Clark County. After partnering with representatives from local governments, businesses, climbing organizations and individuals who had a passion for preserving the climbing cliffs, the Clark County Park District received a Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant to purchase three properties, preserving close to 78 acres of woods, meadow, river, former railroad trail, and natural dolomite cliffs.

Carol Kennard, Executive Director for the Park District explains, “Partnering with the Ohio Climbers Coalition provided knowledge and volunteers to help manage the climbing. Connecting with The Access Fund and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics as well, brought national attention to the site while advocating for safe climbing and encouraging respect for the natural environment.” On a weekend in May, over 200 volunteers and 60 sponsors came together to build trails, clean up the former dump sites below the cliffs, and remove invasive species, officially opening the Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve. “The community at large embraced the new nature preserve immediately, and the partnerships developed will help ensure its success as a destination location for outdoor enthusiasts,” said Kennard.

The OPRA Annual Awards of Excellence will be presented at a banquet hosted by the association on January 30, 2018 at the Kalahari Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio. One first place award winner will be presented with the 2017 Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation, a “best-in-show” award which includes a $500 contribution to the parks and recreation foundation of the agency winner.

“Parks and recreation professionals throughout Ohio work every day to improve the quality of life of the people they serve,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “This effort is a shining example of that kind of work, and we are pleased to be able to present this award.”

The awards are judged by a panel of parks and recreation professionals from around Ohio.

The Clark County Park District is a governmental agency whose mission is to promote stewardship of the natural resources within Clark County through acquisition, preservation, development of programs for education, use and enjoyment by the general public; and through cooperative arrangements with organizations and agencies within Clark County.

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