Sensory Path Earns City of Nixa its 5th Innovation Award

Sensory Path Earns City of Nixa its 5th Innovation Award

May 6, 2022

The Missouri Municipal League has announced that the City of Nixa won its Innovation Award for the large city category (population 15,000 – 30,000) for implementing a sensory path at one of its parks. This is the fifth time Nixa has won the award honoring innovation by municipal governments around the state.

About the Nixa Sensory Path:

In October 2021, Nixa Parks & Recreation unveiled a new sensory path at the Gardens At Woodfield park. The park already had paved walking trails when, during the pandemic, Nixa special education teachers asked if they could use sidewalk chalk to add sensory interactive elements to the trail. The response and use of this temporary installation inspired parks staff to make the idea permanent. 

Through a Nixa Community Foundation grant which paid for paint, stencils, signage and a few other supplies, Nixa parks staff were able to make the interactive features permanent. A partnership with the Christian County Library added a story walk to the experience, and an Eagle Scout project supplied a “nature walk” of different textured materials to walk over. Attendance to the park has grown dramatically and we hear a lot of positive feedback from families who use the features. This low-cost sensory path made one of our park facilities even more accessible and inclusive, and can be easily reproduced by other cities.

Reaction to being recognized yet again as an innovation leader:

In response to the announcement of the MML Innovation Award, City Administrator Jimmy Liles says, “I am excited and honored that our municipal government is being recognized for the sixth time since 2015 for our innovations in local governance. Five wins and an honorable mention means we continue to foster the right kind of culture among our staff. We always encourage our employees to bring innovative ideas forward to help us make our community the best it can be, and in this case, our parks department got an idea from local teachers to provide a sensory learning experience in a way our community really responded to. The sensory path has made the Gardens of Woodfield into more of a destination for many families in our community, who now go out of their way to enjoy the experience. We are honored to be recognized by MML yet again for another innovative approach to public service by our staff.”

Mayor Brian Steele says, “The City of Nixa puts a premium on innovation. As an organization, we always push to find the best possible solutions for the challenges that face our community, which means we have to get creative and innovate. I am extremely proud of the fact that our city has again, for the fifth year, won the MML Innovation Award. This recognition is yet another testament to the consistent dedication of all city staff to think outside the box to help us serve our community better.”

About the MML Innovation Awards:

The MML Innovation awards honor great projects happening in communities across Missouri that enhance the quality of life for Missouri cities. Awards are based on city population size, with the exception of a Member’s Choice award, where MML members vote for their favorite project regardless of city size. Only one winner is selected in each category. 

Nixa’s previous Innovation Awards:

In 2020, the City of Nixa won the MML Innovation Award in the large city category for implementing the #9pmRoutine on social media as a way for the Police Department to prevent theft from vehicles, homes, and garages by reminding residents to close and lock their doors and turn on outdoor lighting each night at 9pm. The effort coincided with a notable decrease in property crime stats. 

In 2019, the City of Nixa won the MML Innovation Award in the large city category for implementing its Staff Think Tank which harnesses the problem-solving capabilities of middle and line-level employees to develop innovative ideas to improve our municipal organization.

In 2018, the City of Nixa won the MML Innovation Award in the large city category for the public-private partnership which developed the Nixa Solar Farm.

In 2017, the City of Nixa won the MML Innovation Award in the large city category for developing its Community Alternative Sentencing Court program.

In 2015, the City of Nixa received an MML Innovation “honorable mention” for implementing a “Crime Free Multi-Housing” program which was effective in reducing crime in an area of town which had previously been a hotspot of criminal activity.