Since 1994, the Coventry Parks & Recreation Department has been providing town residents with programs and activities designed to improve and enhance the lives of those that take part in them. For the second time in eight years, the Department is being recognized for its work in the community by being named Distinguished Department of the Year by the RIRPA.
Program Director Jason Licciardi nominated his Department that consists of 11 full-time and over 100 seasonal, part-time employees for the honor in early February and was notified this week that Coventry had been chosen.
"It's an honor," he said. "We do a lot for Coventry and many people know it, but some don't. This is great because it's recognition that comes from our peers."
When nominating the department, Licciardi was required to highlight five or more accomplishments from the past year. He mentioned the revitalization of Historic Anthony Village Green, the successful completion of Phase 1 of the Coventry Greenway and bike path project as well as achieving the final plan submission phase with the RI Dept. of Transportation for Phase II of the Greenway.
The nomination also included information on the Sandy Acres Wetlands remediation project that is set to commence in March that required securing several Open Space and Water Resources Planning grants.
Another RIRPA requirement is that the winning department have a strong history of promoting itself within the community, something that Coventry has accomplished by creating an ever-growing email list and advertisements to spread word about what the department offers.
The Coventry Parks & Recreation Department also collaborates with other organizations, like the Kent County YMCA and Trudeau Center to design programs that focus on children with special needs, as well as seek local businesses as sponsors for community programs and events such as the Summer Concert Series.
Licciardi has also advanced the causes of parks and recreation by constantly adding new programs for all ages to the already expansive repertoire that is offered to residents year round. Fitness and entertainment nights for five to eight-year-olds, tennis and walking clubs for seniors, Zumba and Tai Chi classes for adults and activities at the Coventry Teen Center are only a sample of what is offered. Trips and evenings out for adults and families, along with special events like the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Family Bingo are ways that department employees help bring the community together.
"The award comes at a really good time," said Licciardi. "With all of the budget cuts and downsizing that is going on everywhere today, this is definitely a morale booster."
The RIRPA also gives out awards for Director of the Year, Programmer of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and the "Step Up to the Plate" recognition that honors outside organizations that are involved with parks and recreation on a statewide level.
Staff from the Coventry department will accept the award on March 12 at the annual Parks and Recreation conference and luncheon at Roger Williams University.