Five Rivers, Greene Co. take home top Ohio parks awards

Miami Valley parks and recreation staffers were big winners at the premiere awards night for Ohio’s parks.

At Tuesday’s Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Awards of Excellence ceremony in Sandusky, Greene County Parks and Trails Director Jon Dobney received the 2019 Harvey Woods Lifetime Achievement Award. Five Rivers MetroParks led the night with three first place awards, including a special recognition of the MetroPark rangers for their response to the Oregon District mass shooting in August.

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“These award winners represent the best of the best in parks and recreation in Ohio,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “These programs are changing the lives of people around the state and building better communities in Ohio.”

Five Rivers also placed first in environmental and interpretive programs, first in health and wellness programs and first in natural resources and conservation. Seven Five Rivers park rangers went home with a Professional of the Year award.

According to Five Rivers, the Ranger Division provides a 24-hour law enforcement to MetroPark’s visitors and staff at 30 locations covering more than 16,000 acres of land.

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During the Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District, the magnitude of the scene made it difficult for medics to arrive immediately, according to Five Rivers. Therefore, MetroParks rangers assisted police and other first responders with rendering first aid, securing the area and crime management.

Later in the awards ceremony, Dobney got a turn in the spotlight. Greene County Parks & Trails staff gathered on stage to surprise their director with personalized T-shirts with Dobney’s face, as well as his go-to motto of “Riding The Tiger”.

“It references the fact that we are moving ahead first and fast,” said Hanna Lamb, Greene County Parks and Trails marketing specialist. “Full speed ahead. Don’t fall off or you might get eaten.”

Dobney said when accepting the award, he left Tuesday’s audience with his favorite catchphrase — “We get to paid to be where other people come to spend their free time. Serve them well.”

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“When you first meet Jon, you will receive a warm and welcoming handshake and a polite, ‘Hi, I’m Jon from Parks,’” said Robin Gregory, special events and programs manager. “He doesn’t use director in his introduction because titles are not important to him. With knowledge in just about everything park-related, Jon was key in helping Greene County Parks & Trails plot a new course.”

Throughout the state, more than 100 programs and projects were nominated, according to the OPRA website. The first place winners include state parks, large and small cities and park districts.

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