Parks & Rec

Lyle Russell, Sheila Rico and J.P. Kraft display their respective Tennessee Recreation and Parks awards. These three staff members were nominated by their peers for their above-and-beyond service to the community. The Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department strives to keep the community engaged in fun, physical and education programs.

The Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department recently took home three state awards. Presented by the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association, a nonprofit organization that supports professionals to help create healthy and livable communities, the awards are presented throughout the state to association members for providing outstanding service to the community.

Nominated by their peers, J.P Kraft, Sheila Rico and Lyle Russell respectively took home the following awards: the Award of Excellence, the Longfellow Award and the Arts Award.


Award of Excellence

Facility Manager J.P. Kraft won Award of Excellence, presented to an individual that has demonstrated outstanding achievement in the field of resource management.

Kraft has been an employee for Tullahoma Parks and Recreation since 2005. During that time, Kraft held many positions within the department. In 2015, Kraft began his current position as recreation facility manager and he oversees the D.W. Wilson Community Center, the C.D. Stamps Community Center as well as the Splash Island water park for the City of Tullahoma.

Kraft integrates outdoor and indoor facilities with his “behind the scenes” knowledge. These are the things that the public never sees, but that the facilities couldn’t run without. He oversees not only the every-day business but also the aspects of the facility safety programs. Kraft assists with internal accounts and revenue and fills in as Director when needed.

In addition to managing the community centers, Kraft is also on Tullahoma’s Development Committee with an advisory role on the Tullahoma Community Pride Committee. This is a nonprofit organization that works together with citizens, business owners and city employees to identify and implement programs which will allow every citizen of Tullahoma to be proud of their city.

Kraft was recently in charge of executing an $85,000 pump room renovation for the six-lane indoor pool pump from the original more than 20-year-old sand filter pump system. The new system will have an estimated monthly energy savings of $200-$400. Future renovations will include a total roof replacement, HVAC renovation, new interior paint and a repair and replacement of the full-sized gym basketball floor at C.D. Stamps Community Center.

According to his peers, Kraft has been exceptional at building relationships and the reputation of the department for 13 years.


The Longfellow Award

The Longfellow Award, presented to an individual for outstanding programming or accomplishments in Aquatics, went to Aquatics Coordinator Sheila Rico.

Rico has been a certified Parks and Recreation professional and an aquatic facilities operator at D.W. Wilson for the past seven years. She also has certifications as an American Red Cross Lifeguard Trainer, Trainer Instructor, Water Safety Instructor and Instructor Trainer.

Rico is also a United States Water Fitness Instructor, Instructor Trainer and a Silver Sneaker Splash (low-impact water sport for seniors) Instructor.

Under Rico’s direction, the Tullahoma aquatics program offers American Red Cross swim classes, basic water safety classes, lifeguard training, lifeguard instructor training and many other water fitness programs.

While Rico’s duties include overseeing aquatic activities, she also trains and schedules more than 100 staff members for the city pool, front desk and fitness class instructors. And, three times a week, she teaches the center’s growing weekly yoga classes.

“We are extremely grateful to be recognized by the TRPA,” said both Rico and Kraft. “We are just so glad to have the support of our staff, the mayor, the city administration and especially the community. Without them, none of this would be possible.”


The Arts Award

The Arts Award, presented to an individual that has demonstrated innovation and creativity to inspire others to develop similar programs, went to Program Manager Lyle Russell.

Lyle Russell won the award for integrating artistic projects that help develop a skill or appreciation for art. Throughout the year, the youth program participates in several activities that include art. These activities have included making art with clay, painting, sewing tie-dye and many more art inspired projects.

In addition to managing programs within the department, Russell implements monthly after-school activities as well as camps during the school breaks. During these activities and camps, kids are encouraged to think outside the box during their art projects.

One project included a nature journaling hike. During this hike, children hiked through Short Springs Natural Area and were challenged to draw what they could feel with all five senses. This activity promoted creativity and being present in the moment instead of using technology to capture photos.

In all the Parks and Recreation programs that include children, Russell incorporates art. A future endeavor is to partner with other employees of the community center to create a nature journal coloring book to be given out for free to children in the community. Adult coloring classes will also be offered starting in early 2019.

“It’s really nice to be recognized by our peers. I’m extremely grateful.” Russell said. “Of course the awards aren’t the reason why we do what we do, but it is nice to be recognized.”

All three recipients competed for the awards against approximately 800 individual and agency members of the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association. Founded in 1952, the association has been aiding in community health and fitness for 66 years.

For more information on Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association, visit

For more information on upcoming events with the Parks and Recreation Department visit or call 931-455-1121.

Faith Few can be reached via email at