Union County earns national achievement award for virtual programs

Photo Courtesy of Union County
From left are Union County Board of County Commissioners Chairperson Alexander Mirabella, Commissioner Andrea Staten, Commissioner Angela Garretson and Ronald Zuber, director of the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at the presentation of the 2021 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for the program ‘Bringing Nature and History to the Homebound and Disabled,’ on Sunday, July 11, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George’s County, Md.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Board of County Commissioners has announced that the Department of Parks and Recreation received a 2021 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for the program “Bringing Nature and History to the Homebound and Disabled.” The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. The award was presented to county officials on Sunday, July 11, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George’s County, Md.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when restrictions closed many county facilities, the Department of Parks and Recreation launched a two-prong program: The Trailside Nature & Science Center produced a host of online nature programs, and the Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs created a series of video tours of historic sites.

“It’s especially noteworthy that Union County is one of only three counties in the state of New Jersey to receive an award in 2021,” said County Commissioner Chairperson Alexander Mirabella. “We look forward to having residents of all ages enjoy these virtual programs to further their education of the history and natural heritage that Union County has to offer.”

The online nature programs and virtual tours can be found on the county website at ucnj.org. The Trailside productions allow for residents to learn all about bugs and birds, and have other wildlife adventures, online. The multiple virtual tour options include a “visit” to Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, where George Washington dined with his old friend Elias Boudinot before heading to New York to be sworn in as the nation’s first president. This menu of engaging and universally accessible virtual resources will become a permanent resource of Union County.

“During the pandemic, the Department of Parks and Recreation was able to effectively pivot and adjust their programs, so that our residents could continue to benefit from what the county has to offer,” said County Commissioner and chairperson of the Parks and Programming Committee Andrea Staten. “The Board of County Commissioners congratulates all those that worked towards making this program an award-winning success.”

Since 2018, Union County Department of Parks and Recreation has received six NACo Awards for its programming: “Feltville Interpretation” and “Embracing our Historic Legacy,” both in 2018; “Experiencing Nature, Experiencing Play: Taking Inclusive From Lip Service to Reality,” in 2019; “Engaging Children in Our History” and “Every Kid in a Park,” both in 2020; and “Bringing Nature and History to the Homebound and Disabled,” in 2021.

For more information on Union County Parks, call 908-527-4900, email parksinfo@ucnj.org or visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation/.

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