Stark Parks recently accepted an award from the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) for the Exploration Gateway at Sippo Lake Park. NACPRO’s annual meeting and awards banquet took place in Pittsburg, PA in conjunction with the National Association of Counties Conference.
Opened in June 2007 as a partnership between Stark Parks and the Stark County District Library , the two-story 41,700 square foot brick facility received NACPRO’s Historical/Cultural Facility Award. The award recognizes “a unique facility development dedicated to historical or cultural preservation, use, programming and/or interpretation.” A major component of the building is the Congressman Ralph Regula Canalway Center that chronicles the history of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, its importance to our region, and promotes the preservation natural resources.
Stark Parks was one of only two Ohio award recipients, with the other being Hamilton County Park District in the Cincinnati area. 32 awards were presented for a variety of facilities, programming, marketing, accessibility, and professional service. Other winners included San Diego CA County Parks & Recreation Dept., East Baton Rouge LA Parish, Shawnee KS Parks & Recreation, Los Angeles CA County
Dept. of Parks & Recreation, Palm Beach FL County Parks & Recreation, and Henrico County VA.
Called the “jewel of Perry Township” by retired library branch manager Carolyn Dick, the Exploration Gateway hosts a wide variety of family, nature, cultural, and historical programs all year long. From band concerts and movies under the stars to hikes, children’s nature programs and camps, boating classes, and wildlife rehabilitation programs, hardly a day goes by without a special program. School groups often work in the science classroom, explore the 323-acre property, test the lake water or go fishing. Groups as diverse as the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Stark Community Foundation, the Ohio Lake Management Assn., and numerous wedding parties have used the facility’s three banquet rooms for trainings, annual meetings, and banquets. In 2009 the Ohio Parks and Recreation Assn. hosted its fall meeting at the Gateway.
In the photo above, Bob Fonte (left), Director of Stark Parks, accepts from Randy Burkhardt, Chairman of the Awards Committee of the National Assn. of County Parks and Recreation Officials (NACPRO), the organization’s “Historical/Cultural Facility Award” for the Exploration Gateway at Sippo Lake Park. The Gateway includes the Congressman Ralph Regula Canalway Center showcasing the history of the Ohio & Erie Canal. The award recognizes a “unique facility dedicated to historical or cultural preservation, use, programming and interpretation.”