2023 NACo Achievement Awards: Spotlight on Maryland County Winners in Arts, Parks and Planning

Introducing Our Celebratory Blog Series: Showcasing the Remarkable Achievements of Maryland’s Award-Winning Counties!

Join us on an exciting journey as we embark on a special blog series dedicated to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of the counties that triumphed in the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Achievement Awards. Each week, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few remarkable counties, delving into their accomplishments, innovative initiatives, and the profound impact they have had on their communities. Let’s dive in!


Arts, Culture, and Historic Preservation Programs Awards

Howard County received two achievement awards in this category.Harriet Tubman Cultural Center

  • The Harriet Tubman School opened in 1949, in a neighborhood founded by recently freed slaves, as Howard County’s only all-black high school until it was closed in 1965 when desegregation ended in the County. The Howard County Public School System used the school for 50 years before transferring the ownership to Howard County to be preserved as a historical, educational, and cultural center, renamed the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center. The Department of Public Works managed the full building rehabilitation of the former Harriet Tubman High School, working closely with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Harriet Tubman Foundation. The new facility celebrates Harriet Tubman’s life, commemorating the history of the Harriet Tubman High School and the impact of African Americans in Howard County and beyond. The renovated building includes office space for the Harriet Tubman Foundation, exhibit space including a preserved classroom, a reading room/Library, and program spaces that the Department of Recreation and Parks manages.


  • Through historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and restoration of the Harriet Tubman High School, Howard County Government, through the Department of Recreation & Parks, pays tribute to the school’s legacy as the only all-black high school and the overall history of African Americans in Howard County. In 2015, ownership of the Harriet Tubman School building and surrounding property was transferred from the Howard County Public School System to Howard County Government to be preserved as a historical, educational, and cultural center. Since its opening in September 2022, the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center has offered various opportunities to engage the community in the rich history within the building and its surrounding community. From Community Listening Sessions to Large Scale community events, the Cultural Center has created authentic relationships within the community to build bridges and partnerships with local businesses and community members to better serve the community it exists within. These efforts have led to an overall increase in awareness of local African American history and impact, as well as better serve our marginalized communities.


Parks & Recreation

Howard County

Kids climbing log

In 2020, amid a global pandemic, the Robinson Nature Center and its dedicated staff transformed its Children’s Garden into a flourishing classroom for emergent learning. This created a safe outdoor space where children and families could safely gather to be inspired and engage in social and educational opportunities.



Anne Arundel County

The Anne Arundel County Bureau of Watershed Protection and Restoration (BWPR) identified the Millrace stormwater management facility as an ideal candidate for a retrofit within the existing footprint. This project transformed an outdated and overwhelmed dry detention stormwater facility into a thriving wetland ecosystem and good recreational area. Through the application of innovative and cost-effective techniques, this project accomplished the complementary goals of stormwater management, water quality enhancement, habitat creation, and public engagement. Stream/Wetland Restoration: -Achieved the maximum extent of Water Quality Volume possible for this facility, which treats almost 100% of the runoff draining to the site (2.75 acre-feet, total drainage area of 46.8 acres) -Incorporated active and passive recreational areas including 75-foot by 175-foot playfield, and ADA-compliant permeable paver pathway, and rest/reflection benches -19 equivalent impervious acres of stormwater runoff treated -Annual prevented pollutant loads of 231 pounds nitrogen, 24.4 pounds phosphorus, and 14,000 pounds suspended solids -Eradication of existing invasive plant species on-site -Planting of 29 different species of native pollinator plants.





Howard County

As part of its General Plan Update, HoCo By Design, Howard County took a comprehensive and inclusive approach to civic engagement, following the Plan’s motto, “Every Voice,HoCo By Design participants review General Plan materials One Vision.”  While many community members are highly knowledgeable about land use and zoning and engaged in planning processes, an even greater number of residents with minimal experience and knowledge regarding these topics exist. These residents’ voices are frequently unheard and underrepresented in planning processes and tend to be from those with diverse socio-economic backgrounds. In response, HoCo by Design’s engagement strategy targeted not only traditional community groups and members of the public but also populations that are generally under-represented in planning – students, young adults, working parents, residents for whom English is a second language, renters, and small business owners – ensuring a diverse set of perspectives was considered in the process and the Plan. The County’s Department of Planning & Zoning built relationships with diverse community leaders, led equity-focused events, and improved communications by using more accessible and less jargon-based language. Through these efforts, the department had a more inclusive approach to the draft General Plan and advanced equity-focused policies for the wider community.

Together, let’s explore the remarkable stories behind these award-winning counties, and draw inspiration from their passion, creativity, and commitment to making a positive difference. View all 2023 NACo Achievement Award winners through their interactive and searchable map.  View our full series of 2023 Maryland Award Winners.