Meet our Regional Industry Champions

On Wednesday, July 20, and in celebration of National Parks and Recreation Month, the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) unveiled the winners of first-ever, regional Parks and Recreation Champion Awards program.

Watch the video!

Jim Wilson, winner of the online vote, earned the title of Parks and Recreation Champion. Other honorees and champions of their home communities included Joan Kindle, Terry Ann Larson and Naomi McLean.

“Our 2016 nominees motivate and inspire others to take action – to protect our land and to teach appreciation for our natural and cultural resources,” said Brian Albright, Director of DPR. “They go above and beyond the call of duty, every day, to improve park infrastructure, amenities and other recreational opportunities in San Diego.”

San Diego County is home to a diverse network of parks, preserves, waterways, community centers, playgrounds and cultural and historic sites. This breadth of year-round amenities, bolstered by a consistently pleasant climate, attracts some 34 million tourists every year. Plans are always in play to enhance our region’s recreational offerings, and local parks and recreation teams often rely on advocates to take those efforts to the next level. Recipients of these awards are people who have made a positive difference in local parks, preserves and community programs. Their natural leadership and program successes bring support for, and ambassadorship of parks. Below are excerpts from the awards program.

Jim Wilson, County Champion

For 14 years, Jim has been a member and crew leader of Borrego Springs’ most iconic recreation area and green space – Christmas Circle. Enjoyed throughout the year for a variety of uses including picnics, concerts, award programs, sports, fitness classes, and meet-up groups, Christmas Circle is considered the heart of Borrego Springs. Jim currently serves as chairman of the board for Christmas Circle Community Park, handling everything from addressing vandalism to raising funds for new programs and amenities. He’s done a lot to maintain the area. In fact, he’s been working on improvements for 40 years – leading the installation of picnic tables, benches, and plants and trees that could offer a respite from intense desert heat. He also helped secure “Night-Sky Friendly Organization status” – making Borrego Springs the only official International Dark Sky Community in California.

Joan Kindle, Local Champion

Joan was an early advocate for Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park and was a key player in the 1998 master planning process. She currently serves as board historian for Friends of Carrillo Ranch, Inc., a nonprofit corporation dedicated to park maintenance, operations and educational programming at Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park. She worked closely with the Carlsbad City Council and Carlsbad’s Parks & Recreation Commission to establish the Leo Carrillo Trust Fund. Hundreds of projects have been funded through the trust, including a history and art education program for 1,000 area 4th graders, every year. She was also instrumental in the redesign of the group’s website to boost awareness of park amenities and to promote new avenues for financial support. Joan works with the community to collect and protect artifacts for future display, memorializing the colorful legacy of Leo Carrillo.  

Terry Ann Larson, Local Champion

Peers say Terry’s love for history and boundless energy brings positive change to a park that is central to Oceanside’s recreational offerings, and a living memory of the way things were for our region’s early settlers. Terry spends 30 hours every week conducting park tours, leading fundraisers, building relationships with community partners, spearheading improvement projects, assisting with special events and sharing her knowledge of history – especially history from the early 1900s. A little known fact is that Heritage Park was erected from an old County Maintenance facility. It was transformed to a historic complex when new structures were added including a school, a jail and a newspaper building. In line with this history, she launched a Brick Fundraiser to raise money for the park’s 40th anniversary.

Naomi McLean, Local Champion

Naomi has served on the Doyle Park Recreation Council for 23 years, developing ideas for infrastructure and amenities that have drawn new audiences to what used to be a dirt lot. Leading up to the park’s inception in 1993, Naomi spent countless hours researching, planning and designing a community park that could offer something special. She championed an effort to convert a portion of the park into a butterfly garden, linking the natural beauty of the space to one-of-a-kind park experiences, and a series of educational resources that have been favorited by local schoolchildren. Her actions qualified the space as a North American Butterfly Association-Certified Monarch Butterfly Garden. Naomi is also at the forefront of a new, fully inclusive playground designed to enhance entertainment and accessibility for users of all ages, abilities and interests – with a focus on physical fitness and active play.

DPR plans to continue the tradition of honoring the best of the best in the parks and recreation by making this program an annual event. Stay tuned for additional information on our 2016 winners, and on the 2017 call for nominations next spring.

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