BREC - A Gold Medal System
BREC Wins Prestigious 2022 National Gold Medal Award
Gold Medal winner for the third time in BREC’s history. Best large park system in the nation. 2022 National Champions. The 2022 Gold Medal victory has been a long-time coming; requiring long hours, a hard look at what it would take to bring BREC to the next level and perseverance to stay the course despite challenge after challenge being thrown our way. But what does it mean? How did we win? What are the criteria for victory?
To start, the Gold Medal application is due every March. It is made up of sixteen essay questions, a park inventory, HR and financial data as well as 3-page summaries of our agency’s master plan and strategic plan. The application also requires a link to our latest Play Book and website so that judges can confirm that we are doing what we say we are doing in the application. About a month later, finalists in five categories, broken out by the size of the population served, are announced.
BREC competes in Class I, the largest population category (400,000 or more), against cities and districts like Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas and Mecklenburg County. While our population is just over 450,000 people, some of these agencies serve well over a million people. This makes BREC’s national reputation as an award-winning agency that much more impressive. Each year, the four category finalists must submit a five-minute video that summarizes the park system’s application and share that video with the community. BREC posts the video on our website and through social media.
The panel of judges are volunteers and active leaders in the park and recreation industry and are looking for excellence in park management; the ability to measure the impacts of programs, events, and facilities; good working relationships with the public and elected and appointed officials, and positive community impacts in the areas of the three pillars of the industry, which are health and wellness, social equity and environmental sustainability.
Each year, we use BREC’s application to turn it into the stylized annual report that is given to our Commission, emailed to partners and supporters, and handed out at events. The page also has a link to the Gold Medal page on NRPA’s website where you’ll find a detailed description of the award, our competition, and past winners.
The bottom line is that we are the staff that brought a third Gold Medal to East Baton Rouge Parish! We are the number one park system in the nation, and we plan to celebrate until a new champion is named. The competition rules state that we cannot apply again for five years, but we’ll continue to produce our own in-house Gold Medal application, turning it into our annual report and producing a five-minute video for the public. That way, we will continue to measure our efforts, stay up to date with changes in the competition and ensure that we are ready to apply again in 2027 when we are eligible.
Gold Medal Submission Documents
What BREC Does Really Well
- SERVING THE COMMUNITY: By offering thousands of free and affordable healthy events and programs, BREC served more than 1-million people in 2021 in a state consistently ranked highest in poverty and poor health.
- HOLDING STORM WATER: A recent evaluation found BREC’s land held nearly 10 billion gallons of water during a historic flood, enough to fill Tiger Stadium 71 times.
- ACTIVELY INCREASING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: BREC earned a $4.7-million watershed initiative grant to enhance the largest construction project in BREC history to protect against future flooding.
- LEVERAGING TAX DOLLARS: BREC has been a good steward of tax payer dollars through partnerships such as housing the main library, children’s museum, parish-wide soccer program, bike-repair work study program, an urban farm community, the first litter boom in a local watershed and many others in its parks.
- SETTING THE STANDARD: BREC was among the first park agencies in the nation to earn national accreditation, becoming re-accredited for the sixth time in 2019.
- BEING UNIQUE: Through a mix of parks and facilities which mirror the history and rich natural resources in south Louisiana including a swamp nature center, observatory, equestrian and RV park, performing arts theatre, arboretum, botanical garden, water park, five golf courses, 30-thousand square feet extreme sports park and much more BREC proves to be a leader in the field.
- PROVIDING CONNECTIVITY: BREC is working with state and local partners to implement a bicycle-pedestrian master plan to add 450 miles of connectivity trails in the parish.
- SERVING DURING DISASTER: During times of historic flooding, major hurricanes, devastating ice storms as well as the pandemic, BREC offers emergency camps, virtual programming, mobile recreation units to shelters, distribution of meals and supplies in parks, expansion of free WiFi across the parish and shelter and staging. BREC received FEMA funding to create strategically located state-of-the-art recreation centers which will house emergency responders during disasters. These two buildings are currently in design.
3 Ways BREC Measures What it Does Well
BREC created a Partnerships and Development division and hired a consultant to help create a new Community Engagement policy to gain more on-going community feedback. A community survey asked what residents feel are the most important areas on which they should have input. Almost 1,000 respondents, with demographics mirroring those of the parish and 84% who visit parks at least once per month, indicated input is most important for park/facility designs, parish-wide plans, programs, and events.
BREC tracks attendance at programs, events, and staffed facilities with over 1 million guests served in 2021. BREC’s IT department also deployed an in-house pilot solution to track passive usage, utilizing over 1,000 cameras and artificial intelligence. BREC will use the data for planning and funding purposes. To better leverage private funds, BREC is working with a national sponsorship consulting firm to identify its most valuable opportunities based on usage and visibility.
BREC’s Natural Resources Management Division created rubrics for scoring parks on their ecological value and natural capital value. The rubrics assess a variety of conditions and services like carbon sequestration, urban heat index and stormwater benefit through reduced runoff. A stormwater runoff coefficient comparison of five BREC parks shows the difference development can make as a fully forested park has a runoff equivalent to 41 Olympic swimming pools, a partially forested community park: 81 Olympic swimming pools, one with grow zones: 89 Olympic swimming pools, another with partial tree canopy: 110 Olympic swimming pools and a fully developed neighborhood park: 260 Olympic swimming pools.
To see more about the information in the video above, check out the
2021 Annual Report.
For other significant milestones in BREC’s 75-year history, visit brec.org/75years and to learn about the award itself and BREC’s competition, visit https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/awards/goldmedal/.