FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact:   John Yarbrough, Lee County Parks & Recreation, (941) 461-7410




FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 17, 2002) – Lee County’s Parks & Recreation Department is a finalist for the 2002 National Gold Medal Award, which recognizes communities throughout the United States for excellence in park and recreation administration. 

The award is co-sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the National Sporting Goods Association’s (NSGA) Sports Foundation Inc. 

Lee County is one of four finalists in the Class I (population 250,000+) category.  The others are Fairfax County Park Authority, Fairfax, VA;  Howard County Recreation & Parks, Columbia, MD; and Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA.  Bartley’s Sporting Goods of Fort Myers nominated the Lee County System.  There are five award classes based on population. 

This is the second honor bestowed upon the county’s parks system in the last year.  In October, Lee Parks & Recreation become one of only 33 systems across the country to receive national accreditation.  The Accreditation Program for Park and Recreation Agencies is administered by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, an independent body that is sanctioned by the NRPA and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA). 

For the National Gold Medal Award, selection of the Grand Award Winner in each class will be based upon improvement, service, continuing development, extent of future planning and degree of participant involvement and acceptance by the community.  Winners will be announced and honored at the NRPA Congress, October 16 in Tampa. 

The NSGA’s Sports Foundation is a non-profit membership organization founded to stimulate interest in the development of new recreational activities and facilities and to encourage participation in sports.  It established the National Gold Medal Awards Program for park and recreation management in 1965. 

The NRPA, headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, is a national nonprofit organization devoted to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all Americans.  It is the main professional organization for practitioners and has a nationwide membership of 23,000 recreation and park professionals and civic leaders. 

Lee County’s Parks & Recreation Department maintains and operates 3,500 acres of developed park land, 14 centers, 9 pools, five boat ramps, three Gulf beach parks, one lakefront beach, 76 beach accesses, 60 tennis courts, 73 ballfields, and 13 preserves.  The department also manages the more than 7,500 acres of environmentally sensitive lands the county has purchased in the last five years through its Conservation 2020 Program.  Its fiscal year 2002 operating budget is $16.2 million.