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Going for the Gold: Ohio State Parks Honored as National Gold Medal Finalist


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State Parks are going for the gold! The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Gold Medal Award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).
“We know that Ohio’s state park system is one of the best in the country, and we are proud to be recognized as a finalist in this nationwide competition,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said. “There is no better place for relaxation, adventure, quality time with family and friends, and outdoor experiences than Ohio’s magnificent state parks.”

A family hike at Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park.

AAPRA awards the National Gold Medal Award to a park system that demonstrates excellence in long-range planning, resource management, and innovative approaches. After a nationwide search, Ohio was selected as a finalist for the award.
“This recognition not only honors the natural wonders within our state parks, but the staff that works tirelessly every day to maintain their beauty and charm,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “From Storybook Trails to cozy lodges to the rolling hills of Ohio, I am proud to be a part of a system that connects people of all ages, abilities, and interests to the great outdoors Ohio has to offer.”

Kayaking at Alum Creek State Park.

Every year, millions of people discover new thrills within Ohio’s 75 state parks, where they can go hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, and even play disc golf. And with a range of overnight options, visitors can make it a long weekend, with a night under the stars or a stay in a luxurious lodge.
ODNR’s message to the National Gold Medal Award judges is that Ohio State Parks offer sustainability, accessibility, fun, and education in every direction of the state. These goals are accomplished by offering free admission at every state park and maintaining a well-informed staff that can offer fun and knowledgeable activities.

Horseback riding at Dillon State Park.

Founded in 1965, the National Gold Medal Award program honors communities in the United States that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation.
A panel of highly qualified park and recreation professionals will review and judge all finalists’ application materials. Judges are chosen for their considerable experience and knowledge in parks and recreation on both the local and national levels.
This year’s finalists will compete for the Grand Plaque Award honors and the winners will be announced in October during the 2023 NRPA Conference in Dallas, TX.

For more information on the National Gold Medal Award Program, visit www.aapra.org.