About Our Department
The Largo Recreation and Parks Department was formed in 1960 in the upstairs room of the old Pinellas County Bank Building. Louis Presti was its first director. Other directors include John Wintermeier (1968–1980), Lynn Sordel (1980–1988), Cathy Santa (1988–2003), Joan Byrne (2003– 2021), and Krista Pincince (2021 to Present).
The Parks Department was created in 1963. As the City grew, it merged with the Recreation Department in 1966, to become the Recreation and Parks Department. Primary Parks responsibilities at the time included Ulmer Park maintenance, City Hall grounds, and the Community Center.
In late 1979, Parks and Recreation were again split into two separate departments with the Parks Department assuming the responsibility of maintaining city grounds, the fairgrounds, custodial maintenance, and the Golf Course.
Late in 1984, Largo City Commission adopted an ordinance that re-merged both the Recreation and Parks Departments. In FY 2001, the Department was renamed "Recreation, Parks, and Arts" to incorporate the importance of the arts in the community.
In August 1989, the cities of Largo, Florida, and Tosayamada, Japan, celebrated their 20th-anniversary sister-city relationship. A 37-member delegation participated in a great cultural exchange with Largo residents. The Yamada Daiko Drum Troupe entertained over 10,000 at the Japanese Festival.
In our commitment to being the best, the department was accredited in October 1999 through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association. Largo is the first city in Florida to obtain accreditation and the 22nd agency to be accredited nationally. The department was re-accredited in 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019.
In 1997, staff conducted a city-wide survey to determine community needs and interests. Projects such as the Family Aquatic Center and the development of the East side of Largo Central Park are the results of the community’s interest expressed in the survey. In 2001, staff conducted another community-wide survey. This survey focused on what the community feels is important and how the Department is performing in delivering the services as well as their satisfaction level with current facilities. In FY 2005, a community-wide survey was conducted to obtain resident input on department services, and a neighborhood parks survey was distributed to residents within ½ mile of a neighborhood/pocket park to determine usage and feedback on desired amenities in their park. Staff uses the survey results to make improvements to facilities and to ensure programs and activities meet the community’s needs and interests.
In 2003, the City engaged in a strategic planning process that further delineated community interests, satisfactions, and needs. The key focus of the strategic plan related to parks and recreation includes the Presentation and acquisition of green space; development of bike-ways and pedestrian trails and implementation of key trail connectors. Additionally, the development of parks and recreation on the east side of Largo were noted.
In FY 2005, staff began developing a department-wide Master Plan that involves: analyzing the department's inventory and existing service levels; performing needs analysis using focus groups, citizen surveys and interviews; identifying issues and opportunities; and developing action plans for administration, maintenance and programming.
The department has received a number of awards both regional, state, and national:
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council awarded Future of the Region Awards as follows: 2013- Bayhead Stormwater Ponds, Largo Community Center, and Playing Unplugged; 2014 Highland Complex received 1st Place; in 1999 Largo Central Park received 1st Place and in 2004 the Central Park Performing Arts Center was recognized.
National Park and Recreation Association awarded the Facility Design Award to Highland Recreation Center in 2014 and the Arts and Humanities Award in 2004.
The Florida Recreation and Park Association awarded the Agency Excellence Award to the Department in 2202, 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2018. The department also received the Innovative Programming Award in 1998, 2014,2016, 2017, and 2019. Public Relations Awards were received in 1999,2005,2007, 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2015.
The parks division was awarded the Outstanding Urban Forestry Program award by the Urban Forestry Council in 2008 and has been designated as a Tree City USA since 1990 and a Sterling Tree City since 2015.
Story of Captain Play
The mascot of the Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts department was born on January 30, 2010, at Largo Central Park. Captain Play was introduced to Largo during our 50th-anniversary celebration. Captain Play is the representation of the department's long-established "Play!" brand. Captain Play promotes the three pillars that build our department, sustainability, public health & safety, and community pride. Captain Play is a promoter of Largo as the Community of Choice in Tampa Bay.
Captain Play appears at all major city special events and parades and strives to bring smiles to everyone in our community!
Participant Code of Conduct
This code of conduct is intended to encourage behavior that supports the Department’s mission to create memorable experiences at our parks and facilities in an environment that is safe and welcoming for all participants.
The Recreation, Parks & Arts Department will uphold all state laws and local ordinances with regard to public behavior.
- A person violating any of the following rules will first be given a verbal warning and then asked to leave the facility.
- If a person repeatedly violates the code of conduct, a suspension will be issued by the Department. The time period of the suspension will depend on the nature of the incident and/or previous offenses.
- Suspensions will be for one month, six months or one year.
- When a suspension is issued, it will apply to participation at all City of Largo Recreation, Parks & Arts facilities.
- The participant will be notified verbally and in writing.
- If the participant is a minor, a phone call will be made to the parent, followed by written notification of the suspension.
- Staff will send an email notification to the department notifying other department staff members of the suspension.
- If the participant has a department membership, a notification will be placed on their household.
- In the event of violent behavior or behavior that violates a state law or local ordinance, the participant may be issued a trespass.
- A trespass may only be authorized by the facility manager.
- The trespass applies only to the facility which authorized the trespass.
- In the event the participant is not permitted at other city facilities or parks, a department suspension should also be issued following the steps above.
- When a trespass is issued, it becomes a police record and is in force until a request to rescind is made by the Recreation, Parks & Arts Department to the Police Department.
Recreation, Parks & Arts staff members will investigate each situation individually and reserve the right to implement any of the above disciplinary measures.
The following behaviors, as well as other behaviors which disrupt the use of the facility or park, are unacceptable and prohibited:
- loitering without purpose or intent to engage in activity or agency services;
- abusive, disruptive, obscene, or threatening language/behavior;
- threatening, bullying, or harassing staff or patrons;
- physically harming staff or patrons;
- smoking/vaping inside city facilities;
- possession of personal alcohol on city premises;
- possession of illegal drugs;
- possession of a weapon when alcohol is served or without a permit;
- interfering with another person’s use of the facility/park or with staff/volunteers’ performance of duties;
- solicitation for goods, services, or money within the facility or park and its immediate grounds;
- damaging or defacing facility or park property;
- inappropriate attire;
- improper use of the internet;
- failure to respond to the instructions of Recreation Parks and Arts staff
Any suspension or trespass may be appealed to the Department Director whose decision will be final.
The Largo Recreation, Parks, and Arts Department has been an accredited agency since 1999. We were the first municipality in the State of Florida and the 22nd agency in the country to reach the high level of standards of accreditation set by the National Recreation and Parks Association Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).
Staff believes that accreditation provides our public and staff with validation that the department is implementing the best business practices in the field. There are over 150 standards that address a variety of disciplines such as programming, communication, staff development, maintenance and operations, and planning.
Annually, staff provides updates to CAPRA. Every five years the department undergoes an extensive self-assessment and a visit from a professional team to evaluate our processes and practices. As a long-term accredited agency, the standards have become a routine business practice for us.
One of the tremendous benefits of accreditation and related site visits is that they keep the agency in the mode of continuous quality improvement. We have benefited greatly from each of the accreditation visiting team's insights which lead to continued growth and improvement.