DALLAS (WCIA) — The Champaign Park District is bringing some national hardware back to Central Illinois.

At a conference in Dallas on Wednesday, the park district was named the recipient of the 2023 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. They were previously announced as a finalist for the award in May, the 13th time since 1970 the district reached the final round of judging.

Founded in 1965, the award honors American communities that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Champaign beat out three other park districts to win this year’s Gold Medal Award for Class III: park districts in communities of 75,000 to 150,000 people.

“Receiving this award is the highest possible recognition in the industry proving our services are ranked at the top on a national level” said Sarah Sandquist, Champaign Park District Executive Director. “I’m immensely proud of our staff for the high level of service and innovation they provide to the community.”

Park districts were judged by a panel of five on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials.

This is the fourth Gold Medal Award the Champaign Park District has received, having previously won in 1979, 1990 and 1998. The park district can also claim a share of a fifth Gold Medal Award, which they won in 1996 with the Urbana Park District for their joint Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation program.