Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Receives 2 Industry Awards for Early Literacy Program and a Mobile-Friendly Park App

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

​(Virginia Beach, VA) - Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is pleased to receive two prestigious awards by the Virginia Recreation and Park Society (VRPS). Judged by a jury of peers at the annual conference, the Society selected ExCELL as “Best New Program” and Park Finder for “Best Promotional Effort.” ExCELL is designed to teach critical early language and literacy skills. Park Finder is a web application where residents can search for a park using mobile technology.

“It is an honor for our department to be recognized as an innovator within our industry,” said Michael J. Kalvort, CPRE, Director of Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation. “ExCELL and Park Finder were designed to meet the needs of our evolving community. Through all our programs, Parks & Recreation strives to help all our residents – children and adults – achieve a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle. These award-winning programs help us reach those goals.”

The Virginia Recreation and Park Society awards program honors individuals, agencies and organizations in Virginia who demonstrated excellence in several areas. The awards were given at the annual conference held December 6-9, 2015 in Hot Springs, Virginia.

ExCELL (Excellence in Children’s Early Literacy and Language) teaches children critical early language and literacy skills which are known to predict later reading success. It is designed to ensure children receive learning opportunities at home, preschool and within the community. It is a collaborative program conducted by GrowSmart, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Beach Libraries and Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation. ExCELL is taught at Williams Farm Community Recreation’s preschool program, where children learn through play. Teachers use hands-on experiences to build foundational skills which are necessary to prepare children for future elementary school experiences. Students consistently have shown significant gains in all targeted early literacy skills, including meeting benchmarks in three key predictors of later reading achievement (alphabet knowledge, emergent writing, and phonological awareness).  

The Park Finder web application, developed with the City of Virginia Beach’s Department of Communications & Information Technology, allows consumers to search for a park by name, location and/or amenities. Park Finder functions across most Internet browsers and the responsive design means that whether accessed from a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or mobile phone, the display and functionality is optimized for the screen size. Search results display in a list and on a map, and selecting a park allows the user to view details including park address, amenities, hours, and driving directions. 

Key features of Park Finder include:

  • ​Search by a combination of amenities and/or zip codes;
  • Search by all or part of the park name;
  • Search using a radius around a given address;
  • Search for parks nearest your current location;
  • Map and list view of results; and
  • Driving directions powered by Google maps.

Since Park Finder launch in October 2013, it has received 9,960 visits. Future phases of Park Finder will include accessibility information and an expansion to include school sites, as many of our citizens utilize school playgrounds, fields and courts for their recreation needs.

“The excellence of the award-winning projects was evident and we offer our congratulations to each winner for their outstanding contributions to the profession and their community,” said VRPS President Art Thatcher. “Entries in every population category, from around the state, allow us to recognize the best in our business while raising the standards and quality of programs, facilities and events in every region.”

Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation’s vision is a balanced, sustainable and value-focused system of parks, recreation and public spaces that creates a sense of community. We are accredited by CAPRA, the certifying agency of the National Recreation and Park Association. For more information, call (757) 385-1100 (TTY: 711 Virginia Relay), visit or sign up for our email newsletters at Find us on Facebook at

The Virginia Recreation and Park Society is a private, non-profit professional organization, founded in 1953 and incorporated in 1956. Its purpose is to unite all professionals, students, and interested lay persons engaged in the field of recreation, parks and other leisure services in the Commonwealth of Virginia, into one body. For more details, visit​.