It’s Official; County Parks Wins Yet Another National Award!

The LEED-Platinum San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center is a prime example of the County's emphasis on green building.
June 24, 2012 | 8:00am

That trophy shelf is getting crowded, but San Diego County’s Parks and Recreation Department will have to make room somehow. It’s won the Barb King Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). County Parks got the word yesterday and the award will be presented at the NRPA Congress and Exposition in October in Anaheim.

NRPA is the premier, national industry association for park and recreational professionals and the County was the only agency to receive this award, so you know it’s big. Second, it shows County Parks walks the talk. It strives to design, develop and operate facilities in the most environmentally conscious manner possible.

“We follow an extensive checklist (40+ items) of sustainability criteria,” said County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Albright. “Green-building standards are evaluated as part of the planning and design of every new project from rec centers to sports fields. All new buildings are required to be LEED certified. ” 

That means, in part, LED light fixtures, solar/photovoltaic, efficient heating and air conditioning, and water management plans for each facility.   

Look at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center. The 5,600 square foot building is Platinum-Certified by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and was in fact the first LEED certified nature center in California and the first public building in the country to receive the highest ranking in green building design.

The structure used recycled denim for insulation, recycled concrete for the walls, a skylight and solar tubes for natural lighting and a green roof for additional insulation. The solar panels have generated 65 percent of the building’s power since it opened in 2009, saving more than 16 tons of carbon dioxide.

“The nature center offers public environmental education while at the same time providing a living lesson in energy and water conservation,” said County Board Chairman Ron Roberts. “More sustainable facilities mean a reduced carbon footprint, less operating and maintenance costs and ultimately more benefit to the public.”  

The award was also based on the County’s role as a national leader in conserving open space and natural resources.

It’s very rewarding to be recognized as the top environmental agency of the year,” said Albright. “It’s fitting because San Diego County does so much in the environmental arena preserving open space lands, providing access to the public, and education about why it’s so important to preserve those lands.”

Finally, the award was based on what County Parks is doing to cultivate environmental stewardship in others. The Energy Savings Adventure program (funded by SDG & E) uses experiments and field activities to teach teens the importance of energy conservation, water quality and clean air. The Discovery Program is designed for elementary school children and allows up to 20,000 kids to visit county parks for science-based school field trips each year.