October 2015 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Professional of the Year” – Jon Thompson, Superintendent of Parks
Jon has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from North Dakota State University. He has been with the City of Billings, Parks and Recreation Department as the Superintendent of Parks and Public Lands since November of 2008. Over the years, Jon has served on numerous MTRPA Committees and presented at several MTRPA Annual Conferences. While serving as the Billings Superintendent of Parks, Jon has reestablished a City-wide forestry program and developed and implemented a vegetation management program for the park system. As ways to better prepare future departmental plans and budgets, Jon has taken on the task of implementing a maintenance tracking system. Jon puts a high value on professional development. He is currently a Certified Playground Safety Inspector and he attends state and national parks and recreation conferences regularly. Jon’s leadership in the parks and recreation field has earned him the respect from his co-workers, our Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Board, City Council and the Billings community.
October 2015 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “New Professional of the Year” – Mike Pigg, Parks Supervisor
Mike has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Montana State University – Bozeman and is a Certified Playground Safety Inspector. He has been employed as Parks Supervisor with the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department since February 2013. Mike assisted with the development and implementation of our department’s new playground safety program. Mike and his staff have started the process of conducting safety audits on all of our 40 public playgrounds to ensure all playgrounds meet ASTM standards and CPSC guidelines. Billings’ public playgrounds are much safer now due to efforts of Mike and his staff. Mike’s leadership in the field has earned him the respect from his co-workers, our Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Board and the Billings community. Mike puts a high value on professional development. He attends state and national parks and recreation conferences regularly.
October 2015 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Citation of Merit for Agency Excellence” Amend Park Community Garden
In 2014, the Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department began the process of developing a community garden. Relying on information from a study conducted in 2011 by the Billings Area Food Policy Council, two AmeriCorps VISTAs serving with the parks department identified potential garden sites in sections of the City of Billings that were designated as food deserts. This meant the neighborhoods were areas where individuals experiencing poverty had less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Amend Park was identified as a location with space for a garden that also served a segment of the community living in a food desert. The garden began in 2014 and has experienced tremendous growth in the 2015 season. This project embodied the National Recreation and Park Association value of health and wellness by helping encourage a healthy lifestyle to a vulnerable population in Billings.
- Amend Park Community Garden Highlights:
- 2014: 24 plots utilized, 2015: 41 plots utilized, (71% increase in plots)
- 2014: 700lb produce, 2015: 1,500lb produce (114% increase in produce)
- The Amend Park Community Garden serves a diverse population including veterans, individuals with disabilities, as well as citizens experiencing poverty.
- The Garden provides workshops and mentors to support gardeners
October 2015 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Citation of Merit for Agency Excellence” Citizen Engagement
The National Recreation and Park Association has long emphasized the role and importance of citizen participation in design, planning and management of parks. Over the past year, the Billings Parks Recreation and Public Land Department has engaged citizens in a variety of ways (public meetings, an online survey, a city-wide statistically valid survey and citizen committees) to involve the pubic in the delivery of parks and recreation services in Billings, Montana.
- South Park, Pioneer Park and Trails End Park Playgrounds
- Committees consisting of a park board member, staff and community members were used to evaluate play value of potential playground equipment at Pioneer and South Parks.
- A group of children assisted with the design of a new playground at Trails End Park.
- An online survey was used to determine the top playground design for Trails End Park.
- Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment
- A city-wide statically valid survey was used to help identify and prioritize the community’s top parks and recreation needs.
- South Park Sprayground
- Community and public meetings were used to help determine the location and types of features at South Park’s new spraypark.
- Daily Community Engagement
- We utilize social media (Our Facebook page has over 3,938 followers – on October 31, 2015) to inform and engage Billings residents.
September 2014 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Professional of the Year” – Mark Jarvis, Park Planner
Mark has a Bachelor Degree in Landscape Architecture from Utah State University and has been employed with the City of Billings as a Park Planner for little over 9 years. During that time Mark completed over $18 million in construction projects (Dehler Park, several miles of paved multipurpose trails, Yellowstone Family Park and new waterslides at Rose Pool) and facilitated several neighborhood and community park master plans.
Mark is currently supervising the design and construction of a playground and spraypark at South Park, 4 tennis courts at Castle Rock Park, 3 tennis courts at Pioneer Park and 2 multipurpose trail projects.
September 2014 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “New Professional of the Year” – Chris Waite, Volunteer Coordinator
Chris has a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts from Brigham Young University – Idaho and has been employed with the City of Billings as a Volunteer Coordinator for one and half years. Chris was instrumental in the creation of Billings Parks and Recreation Department’s Outreach Division. While working as the Volunteer Coordinator, Chris developed annual volunteer community events (“Refresh the Rims” and “Cache in Trash Out”), a community garden, served as a grant writer for the department, recruited and coordinated volunteers and implemented a Volunteer Park Ranger/Ambassador Program.
September 2014 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Citation of Merit for Agency Excellence” – Outdooor Adventure Camp Series
The Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department Adventure Camp series has completed its third successful summer in serving 8-15 year olds with ample outdoor recreation exposure. This camp has filled a need within the area for parents looking for affordable summer child care that was beyond indoor activities. Our success can be defined by the value parents and participants have found throughout our summer program and in the growing popularity Adventure Camp has gained, as our department now has waiting lists of those interested in enrolling.
Our Adventure Camp series hires quality staff, certified in CPR/First Aid and Wilderness First Responder, to work with 40 participants per week in high risk outdoor activities. Our campers are exposed to overnight camping, white water rafting, rock rappelling, rock climbing, canoeing, paddle boarding, horseback riding, hiking and much more! Though the challenges are great and our participants often small, our staff has witnessed the growth in each child throughout their summer enrolled in Adventure Camp.
The Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department identified a need within our community for 8-15 year olds to explore their local treasures. Over the last three years, our staff has continued to build their skill sets, education and flexibility in order to meet the increasing demand for more adventure. Our camp motto is borrowed from the Pixar film, UP, “Adventure is out there!” Staff continues to strive to find that adventure and ensure our first priority is to the children at camp.
September 2014 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association “Citation of Merit for Agency Excellence” – Outreach Division coordinated by Chris Waite, Volunteer Coordinator
The Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department’s Community Outreach Division began in May of 2013 with the hiring of a Volunteer Coordinator. The Outreach Division focused on three main areas; Volunteer Coordination, Partnerships, and Grants. During the first year of the volunteer program, over 2,000 volunteers completed more than 9,000 hours of work with a financial impact of $141,577 to the Department. Several notable accomplishments include the creation of a Volunteer Park Ranger Program, the establishment of annual community volunteer cleanup events, the mulching of over 350 trees, and creation of a volunteer graffiti removal program, the establishment of a community garden as well as many park enhancements and improvements done by volunteers. The partnership focus of the Outreach Division included establishing relationships with local universities to complete skills based projects such as GPS mapping trails, and partnering to create a large community cleanup event called Refresh the Rims. Other key partnerships included establishing a relationship with Bright and Beautiful to collaborate on a tree planting project using a $5,000 grant to purchase and maintain 300 trees planted by volunteers at Coulson Park. The final component of the Outreach Division was grant funding which included receiving $75,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant Program to renovate playground equipment at South Park.
June 2012 – Montana State Parks/Recreational Trails Program “Trail of the Year Award” (Swords Park Trail)
An award the entire City of Billings achieved together; however, the Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department was creative with the development and design of Swords Park Trail. Collaboration with other City of Billings departments allowed awarded project dollars to be maximized, existing routes utilized and the project added a unique feature to Billings’s recreational parks. The Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department played an active role in the establishing Swords Park Trail and currently remain committed to keeping the trail clean, safe and up to date on repairs.
September 2012 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association Citation of Merit Award Presented to The Friends of Billings Dog Parks
Efforts made by the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department to obtain the cities first Dog Park was recognized as going above and beyond to gain a designated park committed to dogs. At the time, the City of Billings did not allow dogs into existing city parks; therefore, there was no established area for dog owners to exercise and bond with their canines. By recognizing an area the PRPL department could improve on, and collaborating with The Friends of Billings Dog Parks, the Citation of Merit Award was awarded.
September 2012 – Montana Trails, Recreation and Park Association Citation of Merit Award Presented to the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department
Commitment to community enrichment was at the forefront for the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department, when in 2012 they established a citywide Parks Assessment District. Visionaries in the PRPL department considered the needs of the City of Billings residence, as well as their satisfaction with funding for future growth. Launching a citywide parks assessment district was no small feat, which is why the City of Billings PRPL department was awarded the Citation of Merit for continuing to create sustainable park growth for residents to enjoy in years to come.
2012 – Merit for Agency Excellence
The City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department puts their value into supporting the needs of city of residents, while at the same time producing as little impact on their taxes as possible. Due to this fact, the PRPL department was recognized for securing the funding for deferred park maintenance with minimal reflection of the City of Billings tax payers. Since that time, all promised and budgeted projects have been completed for the residents to enjoy their city parks and recreational facilities to their fullest and safest extent.
2012 – National Recognition for Outstanding Use of Recreational Funds Presented to Swords Park Trail
The City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department was honored with a National Award for their continued commitment to maximizing their funds for the greater good of the Billings community. Swords Park Trail provides a visual of beautiful Billings MT from above, while at the same time creating a connected trail system easily accessible for all.
2012 – Best Trail of The Year in Montana presented to Swards Park Trail
With National attention as a successful city park, the great state of Montana also recognized Swards Park Trail as the Trail of the Year. At first the City of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands department did not realize the great accomplishment in creating Swards Park Trail; however, the project was evaluated based upon need and interest of the community. Considerate planning and consideration can be attributed to the success Swards Park Trail has occurred.