A Macon park won second place in an online contest among public parks across the country.
Amerson River Park was about 100 points shy of winning the 2019 Knope Award, bestowed Monday to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The annual competition, in its third year, was created by nonprofit Engaging Local Government Leaders. It is named after Leslie Knope from the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation.”
The March Madness-style competition began last month with the nominations of 32 parks across the country. Since then, nearly 20,000 votes were cast and 9,130 Instagram posts were made to earn points on behalf of the competing parks.
A celebration at the park was slated for noon Monday. The county’s parks and beautification staff, Mayor Robert Reichert and Commissioner Larry Schlesinger were among expected attendees.
Amerson’s runner-up status is even more impressive because “Scottsdale has 100,000 more people than us and that park has been around for decades,” Chris Floore, spokesman for Macon-Bibb County, said.
Instagram posts that included the hashtag #ELGLKnope counted twice as much as online votes. Amerson garnered 249 more Instagram posts than the railroad park, but the railroad park had more online votes.
The reward for second place is “affirmation of what we already know,” Floore said. “When you go through Instagram posts and see things people said, (you will see that) people love this park.”
Amerson River Park is the former site of a Macon Water Authority treatment plant that was submerged in the Flood of 1994. A $5.5 million federal grant in 2015 allowed the county to close the 160-acre park to revitalize it over a period of 15 months.
Improvements made to the park include two picnic pavilions, a scenic river overlook, bathrooms at the playground, 4 miles of walking trails, outdoor gym equipment and open lawns.
In the coming years, there are plans to connect the trails at Amerson with the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, a 12-15 mile walking path that eventually will run from Amerson, through historic Riverside and Rose Hill cemeteries and across the Ocmulgee River to trails at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park.