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The Arizona Parks and Recreation Association honored Dale Larsen with its Citation of Merit Award at its annual conference held at the Westin Kierland Resort in late July. A retired Phoenix Parks and Recreation director, Larsen is a professor of practice in the School of Community Resources and Development and serves as director of community relations for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. He is also chairman of the Arizona State Parks Board.
Larsen was recognized along with other individuals and partner organizations for his contributions demonstrating excellence in long-range planning, resource management and innovative approaches to delivering noteworthy and fiscally sound park and recreation services.
“We are happy to recognize these individuals and organizations that have done so much to support parks and trails,” said Arizona State Parks director Sue Black. “The work of these important partners directly impacts the ability for all residents to continue to have these amazing Arizona spaces to enjoy and preserve.”
Although he wasn’t able to attend the awards ceremony, Larsen had a close friend and fellow award winner, Peoria community services director John Sefton, read a thank you note on his behalf.
“First, I’d like to thank the Arizona State Parks and Trails Department for nominating me for this highly valued and prestigious recognition,” wrote Larsen.
A photo of Larsen, his wife and grandkids on a pier at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin was shown on a screen as Sefton continued reading the thank you note.
“The purpose of this picture and the next one taken over the holidays near North Mountain Park in Phoenix is to remind all of us the real Citation of Merit is what we are all doing collectively to ensure the preservation, protection and operation of our beloved natural resources for our children and grandchildren,” wrote Larsen. “We are working at a time when natural resources and our parks are continually being challenged, whether from questionable public policy decisions, reduced operational and capital budget resources, overcrowding, and overworked staff.”
Larsen began his career in parks and recreation in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin in 1972. Twelve years later he moved to Phoenix to work with someone he calls one of the greatest professionals in the history of the field, Jim Colley, who preceded Laren as Phoenix Parks and recreation director. Larsen served as assistant director and director of Phoenix Parks and Rec before retiring in 2010. After 25-years teaching as an adjunct at Arizona State University, Larsen joined the School of Community Resources and Development as a professor of practice. He also serves as the director of community relations for the College of Public Service and Community Service.
“Forty-six years later and counting, I continue to work in our field as a faculty member, researcher and public advocate for parks, recreation and conservation,” Larsen wrote. “I am so thankful for the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association and the role our shared organization plays to advance our field.”