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04.06.12 Howard County Recreation and Parks Honored at MRPA Conference

 April 6, 2012

Media Contacts: Kevin Enright, Director, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022
John R. Byrd, Director, Department of Recreation & Parks, 410-313-4640

Howard County Recreation and Parks Honored at MRPA Conference

Newly Opened Robinson Nature Center and Staff Continue to Win Awards


ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks received several awards and recognitions from the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) at its annual conference this week in Ocean City, Maryland.

The Robinson Nature Center, which opened in September 2011, received the MRPA Landscape Site/ASLA Award. The award recognizes excellence in landscaping of a natural or designed park on the basis of accessibility, aesthetics, uniqueness of design, vandal resistance, economy and quality of the design, maintenance, popularity and appropriate relationship to the setting. Built on the site of a former 18-acre farmstead along the Middle Patuxent River, the Center was designed and constructed to minimize impact on the existing land while providing ample housing for exhibits, classrooms and auditorium space. LEED Platinum certified, the Center uses extensive green design features in both the building and its landscape, including a vegetated green roof and porous concrete pavement in the parking lot to reduce runoff and enable rainfall to recharge the groundwater. The Center is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday.

The Wine in the Woods 2011 poster acquired the MRPA Agency Showcase Award for Special Events Publication. Wine in the Woods, which returns for its 20th year this May 19-20 at Symphony Woods in Columbia, celebrates local wine, food, arts and crafts and music. The attendance in 2011 topped 20,000, making it one of the largest wine festivals in the region.

“I am truly proud of our staff,” said John Byrd, Department of Recreation and Parks Director. “In the past week, the Department has been recognized for its excellence in operations, excellence in landscaping, strong marketing and our staff continues to be leaders in national organizations.”

In addition to association and agency showcase awards, MRPA honored two Howard County Recreation and Parks employees. Steve Schwarzman, Manager of Centennial Park, received the “Tree Hugger of the Year” Award from the MRPA’s Park and Recreation Conservation (PARC) Branch, the Branch’s highest award. MRPA describes a Tree Hugger as a person rooted to the conviction that parks and other natural lands, forest and wildlife areas are vitally important to people. Tree Huggers believe that parks and natural areas help curb urban sprawl, clean and conserve air and water, stimulate tourism and the local economy, create charm and beauty, and provide a higher quality of life. The Award itself is awarded to an individual in recognition of their invaluable personal commitment to the park and resource conservation branch of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association. In addition to receiving this award, Steve was installed as chair elect of the MRPA’s PARC Branch and will serve a three-year term.

“We are proud to announce that Steve is the third person in the County’s Department of Recreation and Parks to have received this high award,” stated John Marshall, Chief, Bureau of Parks and Program Services.

In addition, Jennene Lausier, Teen and Grant Recreation Supervisor, was installed as the chair elect of the MRPA’s Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Branch and will serve a three-year term. The TR Branch strives to unite, advocate for, support, and provide resources and networking opportunities for therapeutic recreation professionals, students and volunteers.

The Maryland Recreation and Parks Association, Inc. (MRPA) was originally founded as the Baltimore Recreation Society in 1945. Hope Godwin, employed by the Baltimore City Bureau of Recreation, was the first president. In 1950, the society expanded to include recreation professionals throughout the state of Maryland and changed its name to the Maryland Recreation Society. The current name, The Maryland Recreation and Parks Association, Inc., was formally adopted in 1973. The purpose of the MRPA is to unite recreation and park professionals and citizen advocates to advance park, recreation and environmental conservation efforts through networking, development and training and advocacy to enhance the quality of life for all Marylanders.