Salisbury Parks and Recreation is finalist for national award

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — After eight attempts, Salisbury has been named a finalist for the most prestigious parks and recreation award in the nation.
“I was stunned, absolutely stunned,” said Gail Elder White, Salisbury Parks and Recreation director. “We made it, finally.”
While competition is stiff in all five classes for the National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, Salisbury competes in a particularly tough class for two reasons, Elder White said.
With a population of 33,000, Salisbury is one of the smallest cities in Class IV, which includes cities and park districts with populations between 25,001 and 50,000.
And self-funded park districts, which have their own tax base and typically more money than city departments, often fall into Class IV, she said.
Finalists must demonstrate strength in seven areas and show they not only have a master plan for parks and rec, but work to implement it.
“They look at the impact that the department is contributing to the community,” Elder White said. “They want to see what we deliver to the community.”
Salisbury made the finals by demonstrating excellence for parks and recreation in long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.
Winners will be announced Nov. 1 in Atlanta.
Salisbury’s competition:
• Elmhurst Park District in Illinois
• Parker, Colo.
• West Bend, Wisc.
Each finalist has prepared a 12-minute video for the judges. Salisbury’s video was created entirely in-house, saving the city the considerable cost of hiring a production team and studio, Elder White said.
The video features scenes throughout Salisbury of children and adults enjoying ballfields, greenways and parks. City Planner Preston Mitchell narrates a brief history of the city, from its geographical location to major industries to historic preservation.
Key players in the city’s leisure, recreation and entertainment efforts appear to list Salisbury’s attributes.
Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., speaks from The Square. James Meacham, executive director, speaks in the Salisbury-Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Stephen Brown, maintenance manager for Salisbury Parks and Rec, even speaks at the top of a jungle gym.
Old photographs document recreation in Salisbury throughout the years, as narrated by Kaye Hirst, executive director for the Rowan Museum.
Highlights include Pops at the Post, the Holiday Caravan and gang-prevention efforts.
The video takes special care to feature volunteer efforts, one of the requirements for winning the Gold Medal Award.
Annually, volunteers donate 4,000 hours to the city’s parks and recreation efforts, including a successful push led by volunteers in 2009 to redevelop the tennis complex at City Park.
“It has been the most rewarding experience,” volunteer Jimmy Greene says in the video from the Salisbury Community Park ballfields. “It is vital for a thriving community to have some type of parks, some type of physical activity for young kids.”
Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program is offered by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.
See the city’s 12-minute competition video on parks and recreation at
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Salisbury Parks and Rec maintains:

503 acres parkland
15+ miles recreation trail
52,239 square feet indoor recreation space

Recreation in

17 neighborhood parks
2 multi-use facilities (Jaycee Optimist Sports Complex and Kelsey Scott Park)
1 public swimming pool (Lincoln Park Pool)
2 fishing lakes (City Park and Salisbury Community Park)
2 tennis complexes (City Park and Civic Center)
6 sections of paved greenway trail
4 indoor recreation centers
300-acre Salisbury Community Park and Athletic Complex
4,000 volunteer hours annually