The city of Avondale was named Winner of the Voice of the People Award for Transformation in Recreation and Wellness, the National Research Center Inc. (NRC) and Polco announced this month.
This award is only given to top-performing jurisdictions that best listen and act for the benefit of their communities. Based on responses from the National Citizen Survey, now the National Community Survey, residents reported the highest levels of improvement for this category compared with all other participating jurisdictions.
The National Community Survey reports resident opinion and satisfaction with local government and services with a scientific, representative sample approach. Results are then used to inform budgeting, performance measurement and program planning.
The Voice of the People Awards stands alone as the only award given in local government based on community opinion. The perspectives of the residents themselves determine nominees for the very best of community engagement, safety, mobility, foundations of livability, recreation and wellness, education and enrichment, natural environment, built environment and economy. Of the communities that participated in The National Community Survey in 2018, winners and finalists for transformation in these categories showed the greatest improvement in resident opinions from their last conducted iteration of the survey.
“Our residents pinpointed items of importance in The National Community Survey that they valued, and the Avondale City Council and executive leadership of the organization listened and responded,” said Kirk Haines, director of Avondale’s parks and recreation department. “As a result, the city made significant investments and improvements that have made a difference in bringing the community together.
“It started with a council vision to renovate a regional sports park with emphasis was toward athletic events and tournaments. The city council guided staff to make this park more community-friendly by creating public spaces for families to gather and recreate. And the city council was willing to back it up with a $3.5 million investment. Sports fields at Friendship Park were converted to splash parks, playgrounds and picnicking areas for small intimate family outings, as well as large group picnic areas to support large group outings.”
Since that initial $3.5 million investment, the city council has funded numerous projects, park improvements and several special event programs over the past two years providing a much-improved quality of life for Avondale residents. These items include:
Replacing playground equipment at all its community parks.
Safety and security lighting for extended use at all parks.
Picnic shelter and park amenities replacements at neighborhood parks.
Improved basketball court lighting, surfacing and amenities.
Avondale residents will see the most significant improvements this year when the $19 million renovation to its second regional park, Festival Fields, is completed in November. The grand opening will reveal a new 2.5-acre community fishing lake, skate park and pump track, fitness area, two new youth baseball fields, four pickleball courts, two basketball courts, playgrounds, a large corporate ramada, ramadas or smaller gatherings around the lake and a new splash pad.
In addition to the many improvements made throughout the park’s system, the city’s recreation programs and activities have also made a positive impact in the community. The number of special events has doubled since 2015, and many of these events are now delivered directly in neighborhoods at their area parks, such as Movie Nights in the Park events held throughout the city.
“These local governments are doing great things for their communities, and improving every-day life for their residents,” said Damema Mann, director of national engagement for NRC/Polco.
“These communities are setting the standard in using public input data to deliver quality of life improvements, as well as building trust between residents and their local governments,” said Nick Mastronardi, CEO of Polco/NRC. “Their work is truly worthy of recognition.”
Now running 11 years, the Voice of the People Awards are presented by the International City/County Management Association, Polco and National Research Center Inc. They will be given at the 105th annual ICMA conference in Nashville, Tennessee, from Oct. 20-23.