2023 WRPA Awards Recipients

Congratulations, 2023 Award Recipients!

This spring, we want to honor the amazing people, parks, and programs that received an award at the awards ceremony during the 76th Annual WRPA Conference. The WRPA Awards Program honors individuals and organizations for their contributions to the field of recreation and parks in Washington State. A variety of awards were handed out to WRPA members and public citizens. 

There are three categories recognized for WRPA's Awards Program: Professional Awards, Citation of Merit Awards, and Spotlight Awards. In addition to these categories, WRPA also acknowledges Mickey Corso Leadership Grant recipients.

Professional Award Recipients

Emerging Professional Award

Gabbi GonzalesThe Emerging Professional Award (formerly known as Young Professional) recognizes up-and-coming leaders in the parks and recreation profession. Those selected for the honor possess the qualities and talents that will result in their assuming top leadership roles in the field and within WRPA in the future. Read More>

2023 Recipient: Christopher Powell, Seattle Parks & Recreation


Impact and Influence Award 

Roxanne MilesAs the highest recognition bestowed by WRPA to an individual, the Impact and Influence Award (formally known as Honor Fellow) recognizes an individual’s dedication and achievement in the field of parks and recreation. The individual selected must be equal in mind, character, and professionalism to those who have preceded him or her and must set an example for those who will follow. Read More>

2023 Recipient: Paul Simmons, City of Olympia


Lasting Legacy Award 

The Lasting Legacy Award (formally know as Distinguished Service) honors recently retired professionals for outstanding service in the field of parks and recreation. Read More>

2023 Recipients

  • Pat Patterson, City of Covington
  • Mary McCluskey, City of Poulsbo Parks & Recreation
  • Jeff Price, City of Mukilteo Recreation & Cultural Services Dept.
  • Mark Ratcliffe, City of Maple Valley


President's Award

The President's Award allows the current WRPA President to honor an individual or organization of their choosing.

2023 Recipient: Carl Strong, Spokane Parks & Recreation


Ron C. Davis II Unsung Hero Award

The Ron C Davis II Award recognizes an individual for their unwavering commitment, leadership, passion, and contributions to the profession.  This award is meant for those individuals who work tirelessly to make a difference in people’s lives, without being in the spotlight, without significant acknowledgment, but with steadfast grace and passion. This award is for an Unsung Hero. Read More>

2023 Recipient:

Johnie Tucker, Vancouver Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services




Citation of Merit Award Recipients

Citation of Merit Awards recognizes individuals and organizations for their significant contributions to the field of parks and recreation.

Professional Award

This awards honors a park and recreation professional whose contributions to the field of parks and recreation and WRPA. Read More>

2023 Recipient:

Tom Nordlie, City of Poulsbo Parks & Recreation


Organization Award

This award honors an organization that has contributed to the field of parks and recreation. Read More>

2023 Recipient:

Maple Valley Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, City of Maple Valley

Levy Legislative Award

Honors exceptional services surrounding legislative initiatives for WA State and respective communities.

2023 RecipientsDoug Levy, WRPA Previous Lobbyist


Spotlight Awards in Program Excellence Recipients

Spotlight Awards recognize outstanding achievements by parks and recreation agencies.

Spotlight Awards Program Excellence: Equity, Health & Wellness

This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the delivery of parks and recreation programs and services that promote healthy lifestyles and community wellness.

2023 Recipient: Adventure Within Reach, Pierce County Parks


Spotlight Awards Program Excellence: Innovative Programming

This award recognizes an outstanding achievement in the delivery of parks and recreation programs and services that are unique and cutting edge. Successfully address a community need.

2023 Recipient: Gnome Trail @ the Legacy Site, City of Maple Valley


Spotlight Awards Program Excellence: Other Program, Initiative, or Special Event

This award recognizes programs, initiatives or special events that celebrate community character.

2023 Recipient: Camp Adventure, City of Covington


Spotlight Awards in Facilities, Parks & Trails Recipients


This award recognizes outstanding achievement in indoor facilities (defined as having a roof and walls) that have a recreational use component.

2023 Recipients:  No Nominations


This award recognizes outstanding achievement in outdoor areas that have a recreational use component.

2023 Recipient | Population Under 100,000:

  • Erickson Playfield, City of Port Angeles

2023 Recipient | Population Over 100,000:

  • Owen Beach, Metro Parks Tacoma



This award recognizes outstanding achievement in outdoor areas that have a recreational use component.

2023 Recipients: No Nominations 

Champions for Change

This award is presented to an agency with unique, innovative and exemplary practices of and or all of the following:

  • increasing access
  • fostering diversity and inclusion
  • addressing environmental impact
  • overall enhancement of social equity within their community or organization.

Read More>

2023 Recipient: Burien Green Teen, City of Burien Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department

Mickey Corso Leadership Grant

The Mickey Corso Professional Leadership Grant was created as a tribute to Mickey Corso (1942–1990) and to his inspiring leadership skills in the recreation and park field. Each year, this grant is awarded to deserving professionals who are looking to further their education and leadership skills.

2023 Recipients:

  • Elizabeth Lange, City of Oak Harbor
  • Rachiah Whipple, City of Maple Valley

Learn More About the Awards

Learn more about the WRPA Awards Program and be sure to submit nominations for future awards. It is important to celebrate your amazing work and the work of your team and colleagues. 

Learn More

Past Award Winners:

A Special Message of Inclusion from WRPA

In early 2021, a joint retreat was held between members of the Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EIB) Committee and the WRPA Board of DirectorsThe purpose of the retreat was to discuss the culture of our association, while also identifying a work plan designed to improve equity and inclusion at all levels of the association. Our ultimate goal is to create an association where EVERY member feels welcome and enjoys a strong sense of belonging.

We are excited to announce—thanks to the leaders of the Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee—we have begun a phased approach to updating our award categories and the associated criteria. In hopes of creating a more inclusive awards program, we are taking the initial steps of modernization of some of the category names as well as updating evaluation criteria. While this is an important first step in terms of addressing the existing language and award categories, we know there is additional work to be done in the future.

Through our annual awards program, WRPA looks to honor career-long and emerging leaders alike. As 2021 draws to a close and we reflect on the many accomplishments of our industry, we would encourage each of you to review the revised criteria below and then submit nominations for the incredible co-workers, supervisors, and staff we are all surrounded by. 


Jennifer Papich, WRPA President 2021-2022
Paul Simmons, WRPA Past President 2021-2022
Shanyanika McElroy, Co-Chair of WRPA's Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee 2021-2022
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