Press Release

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2020

Union County Parks Department Receives Two 2020 NACo Achievement Awards

As part of its youth programming, the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation partnered with the nonprofit organization Groundwork Elizabeth to develop a new nature trail and outdoor learning center at the County’s Phil Rizutto Park in the City of Elizabeth. Groundwork secured a grant to fund a pavilion for the new learning center and organized a youth group to help with environmental projects in the park

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that the Department of Parks and Recreation has received two Achievement Awards from the National Association of Counties, for children’s programming.

The programs that earned accolades are titled, “Every Kid in a Park/Every Kid Engaged…Grandma & Grandpa Too” in the category of Parks and Recreation, and “Engaging Children in Our History” in the category of Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation.

“Union County has a strong history of supporting environmental education, and we are very proud that these two programs have achieved national recognition,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “We are looking forward to the day when we can resume our educational programs for all ages. In the meantime, we continue to urge residents to take every precaution against COVID-19 while in County parks.”

Union County parks are re-opening gradually in accordance with statewide guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and keeping hands away from face are among the basic precautions for preventing COVID-19 and other infections. Persons who feel sick should stay away from others.

The County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center remains closed but is offering activities, news and resources for all ages online at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

“The National Association of Counties is pleased to grant Union County a 2020 Achievement Award for its program titled “Engaging Children in Our History” in the category of Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation and “Every Kid In A Park/Every Kid Engaged…Grandma & Grandpa Too” in the category of Parks and Recreation,” said NACo spokeswoman still Lindsey Maggard. “Congratulations to everyone involved in developing this innovative program. Your hard work will yield positive results for Union County residents.” 

Nationally, NACo awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the comprehensive services provided by counties. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

“Every Kid in a Park/Every Kid Engaged…Grandma & Grandpa Too” and “Engaging Children in Our History” are among several new programs introduce by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Every Kid in a Park/Every Kid Engaged…Grandma & Grandpa Too” includes the following components:

  • Jr. Naturalist Program for elementary school children 
  • Trailside Nature & Science Center Activity Book for youngsters
  • Expanded National Trails Day programming to include families 
  • Kids Explorations: Saturdays in the Reservation
  • Back to Nature programs for families
  • Nature Walks for Seniors
  • Trotters Branch Nature Trail in an urban park
  • Dedicated Trail Maintenance crew
  • GPS-based Trail Monitoring & Repair System 
  • Summer Trail Maintenance program for teens
  • Signage raising awareness of Greenway system

The “Engaging Children in Our History” program was developed by the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in the Parks Department. It includes:

  • Postcards to write friends & family 
  • Stereoscopes to view century old 3D photos 
  • A Battle of the Short Hills Foosball table 
  • Instagram Selfie Frames
  • Posed Selfie Frames with Alexander Hamilton and Margaret Bourke-White
  • Cycling Routes to visit historic sites
  • Audio tour of the Deserted Village
  • Audio tour of historic midtown Elizabeth(Elizabethtown)
  • Historic site cards 
  • For information about the Office of Cultural Affairs, visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation/cultural-heritage-affairs.

For more information and updates about the use of Union County Parks during the COVID-19 outbreak, call the Parks Department at 908-527-4900 or visit online at ucnj.org/parks-activities.

Information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including guidance for the Test Center, is available at ucnj.org/coronavirus-update.

For general information about COVID-19 and phone contacts for 24/7 assistance with questions, visit the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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