Metro Parks Tacoma recognized five community organizations on January 25, 2021 for their vital contributions and service to the Tacoma community in helping the district adapt to COVID-19 and connect underserved youth to nature.
The five-member Board of Park Commissioners presented the 2021 Parks Champion Award to Greentrike, Northwest Youth Corps, The Zoo Society, Northwest Trek Foundation, and Fort Nisqually Foundation during a virtual meeting on Jan. 25, 2021.
“During one of the most difficult years in our history, your partnerships and support made a profound difference as we collaborated to serve the needs of our community,” Park Board President Erik Hanberg shared as he expressed the District’s gratitude to each of the recipients, which included:
In March 2020 when the impacts of COVID-19 were beginning to emerge in Tacoma, Greentrike coordinated an urgent response to support first responders, medical providers and their families. While many people were able to telecommute from home, those working on the front lines were scrambling to find care for their children while they cared for their community.
Greentrike stepped up to take the lead role in coordinating efforts between Metro Parks Tacoma, the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and Tacoma Public Schools to provide free Emergency Responder Camps for children of frontline workers at 10 Tacoma locations. Within the first week, under the leadership of Greentrike’s Executive Director Tanya Andrews, the partners developed a comprehensive response to provide meals, staffing, bussing, activities and operations designed for social distancing. The safety protocols the team developed were later adopted by youth-serving organizations across the state for summer camps, distance learning camps and classes.
“Greentrike made sure that our community was united in our efforts to support our first responders and their families at a time when it was deeply needed,” said Hanberg. “And, they helped our community set the example and provide resources to help others navigate the new challenges in safely serving youth during the pandemic.”
Greentrike is an education and advocacy organization for young children that includes two museums, a childcare center, multiple preschool locations and children’s programming.
Northwest Youth Corps
Metro Parks Tacoma has partnered with Northwest Youth Corps since 2017 to create opportunities for underserved urban teenagers to work outdoors in Tacoma parks for four weeks during the summer, with weekly nature and conservation education. The teens’ service culminates with a week of work and outdoor fun at Mount Rainier National Park where they complete trail maintenance and camp overnight in the great outdoors.
“These life-changing experiences expose our young people to future careers in parks, recreation, and related fields,” said Hanberg. “By connecting youth with nature through service opportunities in our community, our partners at Northwest Youth Corps inspire our youth to develop a shared-responsibly in caring for our park system.”
The Zoo Society and Northwest Trek Foundation
While Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park were among the first zoos in the country to close due to COVID-19, caring for the two zoos’ 11,000 animals never stopped. With a steep loss in revenue from a 3-month closure and reduced capacity restrictions, both zoos were forced to adapt quickly to ensure they were able to continue to provide a high level of care to every animal every day.
“The Zoo Society and Northwest Trek Foundation stepped in early at a critical time, using their reserves to provide immediate resources to support our staff and animals,” said Hanberg. “Together, our two zoo foundations provided over $300,000 to support 33 essential part-time staff who were critical to ensuring animal health and care, and elevated our partnership to a new level during one of the most challenging times in our history.”
Fort Nisqually Foundation
With the temporary closure of Fort Nisqually Living History Museum due to COVID-19, Fort Nisqually Foundation tripled its annual financial support, contributing over $72,000 to support museum operations and the launch of virtual learning and workshops to families at home.
“Connecting our community to cultural resources is at the heart of why the Fort Nisqually Museum exists,” said Hanberg. “The Fort Nisqually Foundation played a pivotal role in helping us continue to engage our community in innovative ways during one of the most difficult times we have ever faced.”
About the Parks Champion Award
Metro Parks Tacoma created the Parks Champion Award in 2017 to honor individuals and organizations that support the park district’s mission to create healthy opportunities to live, work and play.
The previous honorees are:
- The Bamford Foundation
- Volunteers at Charlotte’s Blueberry Park
- Former Mayor Marilyn Strickland
- State Sen. Steve Conway
- State Rep. Jake Fey
- Former School Board Director (and current City Councilmember) Catherine Ushka
- Former City Councilmember (and current County Councilmember) Marty Campbell
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