By David Markham
Two JCPRD employees brought home awards from the annual Kansas Recreation and Park Association meeting in early February, and other employees and the organization have collected three additional recent awards we’d love to tell you about.
The honors include: a KRPA Distinguished Service Award for Heritage Park Maintenance Specialist Steve McQuerry, a KRPA Wellness Branch Outstanding Professional Award for Special Events Coordinator Katy Renner, and a 2022 Leadership in Action Award from Johnson County government for Johnson County Museum Director Mary McMurray. JCPRD also recently received the Shawnee Economic Development Council’s Good Business Award, and a Resilient Success Story Award from Climate KC and the Mid-America Regional Council.
Both of the KRPA awards were presented during the organization’s annual conference and trade show which took place Jan. 31 through Feb. 2.
Steve McQuerry has been in charge of JCPRD’s athletic fields at Heritage Park in Olathe for nearly 30 years. This has been no small task as the scope of youth sports in Johnson County has grown exponentially over the years. Heritage Park currently has 18 soccer fields, ten football fields, and four softball fields, all of which see hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and host play for both beginner programs and national championships. McQuerry makes himself available on nights and weekends, as well as through all kinds of weather, including cold rainy days, and when the mercury rises to over 100 degrees. He’s always willing serve the organization, meet challenges through sheer hard work, and find creative approaches to complex problems. He has created and built field painting machines, storage solutions, and many other enhancements. Due to his high level of skill and willingness to serve, McQuerry serves as a go-to resource to those in his work group, as well as to the rest of JCPRD. He’s trained a generation of maintenance staff on best practices and solutions in the world of ballfields.
Katy Renner serves as games director for the Kansas City Corporate Challenge, and is also the certified race director for JCPRD’s 5Ks, 10Ks, duathlons, triathlons, adventure races, and races for kids. During her time with the agency, Renner has immersed herself in the racing community. She not only hosts runs and races, but her passion for providing the best possible experience for all participants has made her well known in the racing community as she offers help to others in the field. She also volunteers with other organizations such as the Matt Mason Memorial Cowboy Up Triathlon in Smithville, Mo., and the WIN for KC Triathlon Committee. When she’s not assisting with the operation of events, she frequently competes in triathlons as well, showing that she embraces her career as a lifestyle, not just a job. Renner was previously honored by KRPA in 2019 with the Outstanding New or Innovative Wellness Program Award for the JCPRD U Kids Triathlon.
Mary McMurray’s Leadership in Action Award was announced during JCPRD’s annual employee meeting on Feb. 20. During 2022, McMurray led her team to achieve accreditation through the American Alliance of Museums for the first time in the Johnson County Museum’s 55-year history. This represents the highest national recognition for a museum; an accomplishment made by just 3% of the nation’s museums. Accreditation involved a three-year process which included self-studies and site visits and required McMurray’s leadership to lead museum staff, the Museum Advisory Council, the Museum Foundation, and JCPRD staff and board to be ready and informed through the process.
McMurray also led in marking and celebrating the museum’s 55th anniversary, which occurred in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the opening of the museum’s current location at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center.
Another big lift for the director this year was the important work of leading the museum foundation board through a thoughtful and thorough year-long process to consider a merger with The Parks and Recreation Foundation (TPRFJC) of Johnson County. The goal was to take the board and stakeholders through a process to consider this idea and lead change in a positive and productive manner. The idea was to dissolve the foundation and associated legal and financial obligations and reform the organization as a friends group under the TPRFJC in order to allow the new friends group to focus on advocacy and fundraising. In the end, both boards agreed to move forward with a merger.
Another major museum project of 2022 was the execution of the temporary exhibit “Redlined: Cities, Suburbs and Segregation.” Under McMurray’s leadership, the exhibition was created in-house and involved more than 120 images, 10 display cases with original objects and artifacts, and covered more than 2,000 square feet of wall space. “Redlined” was a team effort which included museum staff and multiple staff across JCPRD. The exhibit explored the history of redlining and how it both shaped and was shaped by Johnson County and the Kansas City region. This exhibit was also built to align with 12 additional partners across the region to magnify the impact and reach across the Kansas City area.
While mentioning exhibits, it’s worth noting that the museum also currently has a temporary exhibit called “Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories,” on display through March 18. This exhibit is included in regular museum admission of $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children ages one to 17, and free for museum members and children under one. Visit on March 16 for the museum’s quarterly free day. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is closed on Sundays and holidays.
JCPRD received the Shawnee Economic Development Council’s Good Business Award during an event in mid-November. These awards honor businesses that underwent significant expansions, hiring, or opened in Shawnee during the previous year. This specific award recognized the impact of JCPRD’s ongoing improvements to the Mid-America and Mid-America West Sports complexes.
In early December, JCPRD received a Resilient Success Story Award from Climate KC and the Mid-America Regional Council. This award recognizes the district’s efforts which began in 2019 to create resilient, healthy forests across the county, and to address the threat posed by the continued expansion of bush honeysuckle across multiple habitat types. Through August of 2022, almost 500 acres of bush honeysuckle had been removed from three JCPRD parks. In an effort to connect with the community, and highlight this conservation effort, natural resource and cultural staff collaborated on an artist-in-residence program focused on bush honeysuckle removal at Shawnee Mission Park. The art installation was available for the public from October to December.
A new prairie-related art residency for 2023 is beginning soon. See related story.