Show Me Your Credentials: Pursuing Parks & Rec Accreditation

Posted on April 24, 2018


Our family grew by four paws a couple weeks ago. Remy is rad and potty training is very trying on my patience.

Right Now with Kylie Bayer-Fertterer (LinkedIn/Twitter)

What I’m reading: The latest issue of Real Simple Magazine. Time to channel Brandi and declutter my house again. I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to throw all of my belongings away once my puppy stops tearing my house apart (I don’t even care I love him so much.)
What I’m watching: Wild Wild Country and it’s making me really nervous that I’ll slowly become indoctrinated into a cult without even knowing it.
What I’m listening to: Kids jokes on our Amazon Echo. My nephew came over Saturday night and we spent the evening petting dogs and asking Alexa to tell us jokes. My favorite of the night: What’s a shark’s favorite sandwich? Peanut butter and jellyfish!

Show Me Your Credentials: Pursuing Accreditation for your Park and Recreation Department

The Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District recently became an accredited agency through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA.) This massive undertaking seemed unattainable at times but now that we’re on the other side of the process I’m here to tell you it is worth all the hard work. This edition of the Morning Buzz will give you background on the accreditation process and tips from my organization on how to get through it without losing your mind.

First, there are accreditation programs for many public agencies: law enforcement, fire departments, public health providers, and parks and recreation. I urge you to research which departments in your city or county are eligible for accreditation. Among other benefits, becoming accredited provides assurance and validation of well-administered services in accord with approved practices, holds your agency accountable to the public, and answers the question “How are we doing?” through extensive self evaluation. Being able to proudly say we are among the best in our field garners public support and ensures we’re in aligned with national standards. Let me tell you, it feels really good.
How did we go about earning that seal on our website? The first step was attending the National Recreation & Parks Association (NRPA) conference sessions about the accreditation process. We learned the blueprint of the process and developed a plan for the completing the application. We assigned a “go-to” employee for all things CAPRA related. This is a great job for a management analyst or anyone who is exceptionally organized (H/T to Michael Egging for being our “go-to,” he was so awesome that the Bend Park & Recreation District snatched him up!) Then we held an all hands on deck meeting to determine how the workload would be split.
The application for CAPRA includes 151 standards. ONE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE. In our all hands on deck meeting, we split those standards up by department and committed to a timeline. We had to provide evidence for each standard as well as a narrative. When we were done with a standard we submitted it to Michael who cleaned everything up and ensured each piece of the application was consistent. This process took months, so be patient and keep chugging along.
We realized there were some standards we didn’t meet so we worked with department managers to develop policies where needed and began tracking information so we could show that we may not have met a standard 100% but we were well on the way.
“Leadership succession procedure” is an example of a standard that we did not initially meet. We did not have a written plan for if our general manager became incapacitated. Sure, we could have figured out what to do but now we have a policy that outlines exactly what needs to happen; and we were able to discuss the policy thoughtfully.
The second to last stage of earning your agency’s CAPRA accreditation is a site visit by certified CAPRA visitors. Three park and recreation professionals visited our park district to tour facilities, consult with us on our application, and meet our employees. They had a jam packed couple of days with bike rides, summer events, and a final celebratory BBQ on our main campus. I suggest your agency reach out to your CAPRA visitors and find out the things that interest them and try to incorporate those into their stay. If they’re going to spend a few days learning about your agency make sure they’re doing the things they like to do while they’re there!

Our visitors rolling up while we were slightly/extremely nervous for everything go well!

Your visitors will your agency know if they’re on the path to accreditation. That visit is an opportunity for them to tell you to pump your breaks or to step on the gas. If your visit is successful you’re likely going to become accredited.
A formal hearing by the commission is the final part of the process. This occurs at the NRPA annual conference.
But wait! There’s more! Earning accreditation is one thing, celebrating that success is another. We developed a communication plan to share the news with the community. We recognized employees who helped the process along every step of the way. If your agency earns that coveted seal then you better showcase the hell out of it. Accreditation is a huge accomplishment and it’s worth sharing with the residents who benefit from your services every day.

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