The Cullman City Parks and Recreation department has been a finalist for a national parks award the past three years, but found out Tuesday they did not bring home the top prize for 2012.
Despite the close finish, parks director John Hunt said the department and community can still take pride in making it to the final four a record third time, beating out potentially hundreds of applicants.
“It’s still a major honor to be considered one of the top four parks departments in the nation,” he said. “Even if we didn’t win we’re still considered one of the best. It’s a tribute to the staff, park board and our city council and mayor for supporting us. Next year, we’ll try again.”
Cullman was joined by three Colorado cities on the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) finalists list for Class 5, honoring municipalities with a population less than 25,000.
At a ceremony hosted in California Tuesday afternoon it was announced the City of Durango, Colorado had won the Gold Medal Award.
“It’s still great for Cullman to be a finalist three years in a row and to be one of the best four departments in the nation consistently for the past three years,” parks spokesperson Waid Harbison said. “We were the smallest municipality in our class, so we were fortunate to be a finalist the past few years.”
To receive the award departments are judged on advancements they’ve made in the past five years, which Harbison said can sometimes be a disadvantage for an established parks department like Cullman.
“Something interesting to note is that its only what you’ve done the past five years, so when we’re showcasing everything we do its really just based on new things we’ve done,” he explained. “Some others are just now doing things we’ve already done in the past. But, we had things like the Field of Miracles, the aquatic center with over 13,000 members, and this year we felt confident because we’d also added things like Rock the South and the archery tournament. Regardless it’s been a great year.”
Cullman Mayor Max Townson, who was in California along with some other city officials for the announcement, said the contingent was obviously let down — but still proud of the work being done.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our parks,” he said. “Of course we’re a little disappointed, but we still believe we have one of the best park departments in the state and nation.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.