Overview of the CAPRA Accreditation Process

The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) standards for national accreditation provide an authoritative assessment tool for park and recreation agencies. Through compliance with the standards of excellence, CAPRA accreditation assures policy makers, department staff, the general public and tax payers that an accredited park and recreation agency has been independently evaluated against established benchmarks as delivering a high level of quality. 

Lee County Parks & Recreation received CAPRA Accreditation in 2001. We were one of the first 35 agencies in the nation to achieve accreditation. Every five years there is a reaccreditation process where trained visitors conduct onsite review of all documentation to make sure all standards are being met.  We met our reaccreditation standards in 2006 and 2011.  We are looking forward to our next visit in May 2016.  To help explain the process and benefits of accreditation, some questions and answers regarding this process are provided for information.​​

What does it mean to be an “Accredited Agency”?

Many professions have an accreditation process; including, but not limited to, hospitals, universities, fire and police departments, and some non-profit organizations. To achieve accreditation, an agency must fully assess their department’s policies, practices, procedures, programs and facilities. The Department had to self assess 144 of their internal standards. These standards undergo an extensive review process of staff involvement, assistance from other city departments and outside groups that help staff perform their duties.

After the self-assessment, then what happens?

The completed self-assessment manual is submitted to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) who then assigns a review team of park and recreation professionals to visit the agency. The purpose of the visit is to check each of the 144 standards for compliance. The 3-4 member team is usually onsite for four days before submitting their report to the board.

Who grants Accreditation status to an agency?

The National Recreation and Park Association has an appointed board from several disciplines, referred to as the Commission of Park and Recreation Accreditation Agencies. The CAPRA board consists of representatives from NRPA, County Administrators, City Managers’ Association, Higher Education and the Armed Services. The CAPRA board reviews the self-assessment and the team report prior to the Team Chair and the agency Director orally defending the reports at a face-to-face meeting.

What are some of the benefits of being an Accredited Agency?

During the process there was extensive staff involvement, and, as a result, the department became a more cohesive unit. In addition, policies and procedures were optimized in order for the department to incorporate “best practices” in the field of parks and recreation. Staff committed to achieving the best by meeting each of the standards presented in the manual. It was a two year process and some changes in operations had to be made to meet those standards. Staff continues to be dedicated to excellence and have a greater understanding of each of the jobs performed within the department, and how working together achieves great things.

As a resident of Lee County, what does accreditation mean to me?

As a resident you can expect a high level of customer service and a staff that is responsive to your questions and your issues. It means you can go to a park or sign up for a program and expect the very best facilities and service within our financial means. Lee County Parks & Recreation is in a better position to apply for and receive federal and state grants due to the amount of information gathered to meet the standards. 

Is there a term of Accreditation status, or an expiration date?

Accreditation is granted for five years, after which the agency has to go through another review process by the CAPRA board. The five year review focuses on any deficiencies found in the first round, and any major changes of the agency within those five years. After ten years, the agency has to re-submit a full self-assessment. The agency must submit an annual report to the CAPRA, addressing any changes that might occur within a year.

Where can I go for more information?

The National Recreation and Park Association website is a start, and it is easily accessibly by citizens: http://www.nrpa.org/ .

Accreditation Documents

2006 Self Assessment Workbook

2011 Self Assessment Workbook

2016 Self Assessment Workbook

CAPRA - 2014 Standards - 5th Edition