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Charlotte, NC- Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department has been named one of four finalist agencies in competition for a 2011 NRPA Gold Medal Award. The award is presented annually by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) to honor excellence in management and planning of parks and recreation agencies. This is the second year in a row the department has been named a finalist for the award.

Recreation professionals consider the Gold Medal Award as the top national recognition of excellence in their profession.

"I'm very proud of the work and professional dedication of our staff and volunteers to earn this recognition," said Jim Garges, Director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department.

A panel of leading experts chose the Mecklenburg department as a finalist for the Gold Medal in the category for communities with a population of more than 250,000. Other finalists in this category include: Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department (Kansas City, Mo), Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department (Miami, Fla), and Portland Parks and Recreation (Portland, Ore). The choice was based on extensive written submissions about the department, both statistical and narrative, in response to a series of specific questions posed by NRPA.

This award honors the top communities in the United States which demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.

NRPA says, "Each agency is judged on its ability to address the needs of those it serves through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials."

A single winner in the large population category will be announced in early November.