HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — The Mercer County Park Commission received five awards at the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association’s (NJRPA) annual awards ceremony in Atlantic City on Tuesday, March 8. Mercer County Wildlife Center, Howell Living History Farm and Mercer County Stables received awards in programming, recreation, design, visual and cultural arts.

the Mercer County Wildlife Center received the Gregory A. Marshall Historic Parks and Resources Award for his pre-flight conditioning cage, a new enclosure for rehabilitating large raptors.

Howell Living History Farm received the Excellence in Educational and Interpretation Programming Award for its “Share the Harvest” program, which provided farm-fresh food and produce to food shelters in Mercer County throughout the pandemic.

Mercer County Stables received three awards, including the Daniel M. Gasalberti Award for Excellence in Recreational Programming for its Horses and Youth (HAY) program, a program designed for youth living in disadvantaged areas of Mercer County. HAY’s equine programming is educational and recreational. The Stables also received the Excellence in Visual and Cultural Arts Programming Award for their June 19 celebration featuring black cowboys and horsewomen. The redesign of the facility, which added to its functionality and visual appearance, won the Stables the Design Excellence Award.

“The addition of new programs, events and facility resources has opened up a wide range of recreational and educational activities for the public,” said County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “These awards represent a collaborative effort to bring new opportunities to the community and attract new visitors, and we are so proud of the work of all of our Parks Commission employees under the visionary leadership of Executive Director Aaron T. Watson.”

The annual awards ceremony (NJRPA) was held at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City, NJ. The awards were accepted by Executive Director Watson, Assistant Manager Joe Pizza, Superintendent of Parks Anthony Cucchi, Wildlife Center Manager Diane Nickerson, Farm Manager Howell Living History Pete Watson, Stables Manager of the County Christine Cardinal and Director of Marketing and Community Outreach Wanda Lacy McNeill.

“I would like to recognize the work of our commissioners, elected officials, directors and managers who have made these programs and additions to our facilities possible,” said General Manager Watson. “We strive to provide accessible programming and continue to expand our offerings each year.”

The NJRPA represents more than 600 public and private parks, recreation, and public health professionals and more than eight million citizens statewide. During the 47and Annual conference, the Parks Commission received five of 24 awards.

James C. Tibbs