Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department wins three awards for outstanding achievement in parks and recreation

Presentation scheduled during National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials’ annual meeting in May

This is one of the banners on the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials website.

Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) has received three 2022 National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) awards for accomplishments in the 2021 calendar year, the county announced on March 31.

PRNR earned awards in the Conservation, Outstanding Support Organization, and Trails and Corridor categories, a news release notes. “These awards were in recognition of best practices, innovation, and excellence in parks and recreation” at the county level, the release adds.

“We are so excited to be selected as the winner of not one or two, but three NACPRO award categories!” PRNR Director Nicole Rissler said in the release. “These three awards highlight a range of accomplishments Sarasota County Parks has achieved in the last year, including the incredible partnership and dedication of the Friends of The Legacy Trail,” she added in the release.

More details about the specific honors follow:

  • Conservation — PRNR received this award in recognition of the accomplishments of the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP). Through five land acquisitions, PRNR “successfully protected 1,725 acres of vital watershed, wildlife habitat, and greenway corridors for connectivity,” the release explains. “In addition to the environmental benefits, these protected lands provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, environmental education and the cultivation of stewardship of the natural environment,” the release points out.

“The Conservation Award recognizes exceptional efforts to acquire, restore and preserve natural areas or significant conservation areas and programs that create public awareness and appreciation for conservation efforts,” the release says. Since its inception in1999, the ESLPP has protected more than 39,000 acres and conservation easements, the release notes.

  • Outstanding Support Organization — In recognition of the support of the nonprofit Friends of The Legacy Trail Inc. (FLT) in Sarasota County, PRNR received the Outstanding Support Organization award. “The FLT promotes, enhances and protects The Legacy Trail,” the release points out, and it supports the Trail’s “community of users.” In addition to funding Trail improvements and donating amenities, the Friends organization also has devised a new way to count and maintain Trail use data, the release says.

The Outstanding Support Organization award is presented to an organization that has made a significant contribution that benefits park and recreation programs, facilities, operations, or organizational support, the release explains. FLT was created in 2006 as a chapter of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, a nonprofit organization. Then, in 2016, the Friends group became a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the release adds.

  • Trails and Corridors —In recognition of The Legacy Trail Extension Project — specifically North Extension Segments 1 and 2 and the Ashton Trailhead initiatives — PRNR received the Trails and Corridors award. In 2021, the release notes, PRNR celebrated the opening of the Ashton Trailhead, which provides parking, Trail access, and a community park. The department also oversaw the construction of 5 additional miles, which extended the Trail from its terminus at Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch into downtown Sarasota.

“The Trails and Corridors Award recognizes excellence in a trail, greenway, waterway, corridor or other linear park development project,” the release explains. In December 2004, Sarasota County acquired its first rails-to-trails corridor, commencing at Culverhouse Nature Park and extending south to Center Road in Venice, for a total of 10.6 miles, the release points out. The trail was constructed in 2007 and named The Legacy Trail.

The awards will be presented during the NACPRO Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 15, at the Rainwater Conference Center in Valdosta, Ga., the release says. Registration and more information are available at

“NACPRO is a nonprofit professional organization that advances official policies to promote county and regional park, recreation and conservation issues,” the release adds. NACPRO is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).