a series of three photos overlaid with text reading 'Bill Yeck Park's new orange trail", "The Wall That Heals - Yankee Park", "Pollinators & Flowers Colorful Fun Run"

Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has announced its 2023 Annual Awards of Excellence winners.

The Centerville-Washington Park District (CWPD) won a first-place award in the natural resources and conservation category for the recent completion of the Bill Yeck Park master plan.

Bill Yeck Park is a 194-acre nature park that was in need of updates. To address community concerns, the master plan was guided by community feedback. From the public perception, the goals seemed simple: Fix muddy trails and install signs so people do not get lost! A plan was implemented as a multiyear, phased project. Utilizing GIS and mapping technology, a new trail system that followed slopes and topography optimal for drainage and trail performance was planned, including six miles of new trails. Using sustainable trail-building techniques, thousands of feet of decayed wooden steps, handrails and footbridges were removed, providing a safer and more enjoyable park experience. Additionally, trails that caused visitors to become lost or misdirected were decommissioned and restored to their natural state. The final phase of the master plan involved the design and installation of navigational signs and maps. Installation of the trail signs was completed in the spring of 2023.

CWPD won a first-place award in the category of historical and cultural arts programs and events for The Wall That Heals exhibit, a partnership with the Washington-Centerville Library.

Last summer, the Washington-Centerville Public Library (WCPL) was selected to host The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This project was an example of local entities working together to make a powerful community impact. CWPD provided the location for the exhibit and helped with construction and deconstruction. Exhibit locations must meet the needs of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of visitors for 24 hours each day no matter the weather or crowds. The wall was open 24 hours a day on a Thursday through Sunday in late July. Nearly 5,000 visitors accessed the exhibit.

The Fun Run series took second place in the health and wellness programs and events category.

Sponsored by Dayton Children’s Hospital, the Fun Run Series offers several opportunities throughout the year for local families to get outdoors, stay active, and learn about an environmental education topic along the way. The Fun Run series was a response to research that children are more likely to engage in and continue a healthy lifestyle when they start alongside their families. CWPD offered six Fun Runs in 2023. The events are free for attendees and are open to members of any community to attend.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association for a large-scale multi-year project and for the programs that benefit our community,” said CWPD Executive Director Kristen Marks. “Staff enjoys each opportunity to connect the community with the outdoors and we will carry the excitement into the new year as we continue to plan for the future!”

The OPRA Annual Awards of Excellence will be presented at the association’s annual conference in February 2024 in Sandusky, Ohio. One first-place award winner will be presented with the 2023 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.”

A panel of parks and recreation professionals from around Ohio judge the OPRA Awards of Excellence.

Media inquiries? Please contact Carrie Dittman, Marketing & Communications Supervisor at 937-433-5155.