Littleton parks and rec manager dubbed a “real-life Leslie Knope”

You might remember Skot Latona from our annual South Platte tubing report.

Jim O'Heir, who plays Jerry Gergich on NBC's Parks and Recreation, interviews real-life Littleton parks guy Skot Latona.

Jim O'Heir, who plays Jerry Gergich on NBC's Parks and Recreation, interviews real-life Littleton parks guy Skot Latona.

Courtesy: Peacock/NBC
KEVIN-lighter

Once a year, Denverite assesses the South Platte River tubing situation. We speak with Skot Latona when we do, since he manages Littleton’s South Platte Park. It’s our favorite spot to float when the water levels are high enough.

On Tuesday, Latona was recognized by his fictional colleagues from Pawnee, Indiana: the cast and characters from NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

In season four, Tom and Donna decide they need a holiday to splurge on the finer things in life. So, naturally, Oct. 13 becomes Treat Yo’ Self Day. The occasion has taken on a life of its own and, this year, NBC has decided to commemorate TYSD by honoring five real-life parks and rec workers from around the country. Latona was one of them, and there is now a video featuring him and actor Jim O’Heir on the network’s new streaming service, Peacock. You can also see it here:

This all may be a shill for Peacock – the marketing team with the press release wants everyone to know they can watch Parks and Rec there – but Latona is genuinely grateful for the award.

His colleagues nominated him for his efforts to invite young people to visit and learn about South Platte Park, to increase safety on the water and to maintain the ecosystem there.

He specifically mentioned a program he helped create at the park where anyone over the age of 16 can become a certified interpretive guide. So far, 350 people have graduated from the program and are now equipped to lead tours around the South Platte’s banks.

“For me it’s really about getting a new generation inspired about nature and teaching and recreation,” Latona told O’Heir, who plays Jerry Gergich on the show.

South Platte Park manager Skot Latona looks at a water systems map inside Littleton's Carson Nature Center. July 18, 2020.

Latona is a big-time ecosystem nerd, and pulled out these water maps to explain water rights to us inside Littleton's Carson Nature Center on July 18, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

But Latona also told us the award was a bittersweet. Some of the colleagues who nominated him were laid off over the summer, as the COVID-19 recession began to impact South Suburban Parks and Recreation’s budget. It’s an issue impacting departments around the country, including Denver’s.

And as for the fictional Parks and Rec employees of Pawnee, Latona said he’d never really watched the show. When he learned about the award, he figured he should start with season one. It apparently hit home.

“The writers have done their research,” he said. The first few episodes he watched were “just very cringy.”

But he’s come to appreciate some of the characters. If he had to pick one he identifies with, it’s Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope.

“She’s probably the one I connected with the most. Trying to come up with 1,000 ideas and approach every one with unbridled optimism,” he said. “It’s kind of the energy you need to take to the job.”

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