Thursday September 27, 2007
This week, Louisville Metro Parks became one of only 73 parks and recreation agencies in the nation to be accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies
. The announcement, made during the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference in Indianapolis, places Metro Parks among the nation’s best parks and recreation departments.
Metro Parks spent three years pursuing accreditation, including a comprehensive self-assessment of its policies and procedures. In July, a team of experienced parks and recreation professionals from accredited agencies visited Louisville for a three-day review of the department’s operations. Ultimately, the accreditation commission determined that Metro Parks met 150 of 155 industry standards. To become accredited, agencies must meet 36 fundamental standards and 102 of the remaining standards.
“When I hired Mike Heitz as our parks director in August 2003, we discussed national accreditation as one way to boost the community’s confidence in the department,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson. “Since then, the department has made remarkable progress, especially through the City of Parks initiative to expand and improve our parks. The great strides we’ve made are partly thanks to the detailed process that was laid out for us by the accreditation commission.”
Because the accreditation process also required input and support from other city departments – including Human Resources, Finance and Administration, Public Works and Assets, and the Louisville Metro Police Department – the commission noted Louisville Metro Government’s progress since merger as commendable, according to Mike Heitz, director of Metro Parks. “The commission was specifically impressed that we were able to make our case for accreditation less than five years after building a new form of local government from the ground up,” said Heitz. “I think this should give our citizens pride that their parks department meets national standards, and it should give them confidence that a framework is in place to continue making improvements to our facilities and services. I’m so grateful for the hard work that our employees have done to make this accreditation possible.”
To celebrate this accomplishment, Metro Parks will add an accreditation seal to printed materials such as letterhead and brochures as the existing stock is depleted. The accreditation commission will conduct a formal review of Metro Parks in 2012 to ensure that the department still meets national standards.
Progress as a City of Parks
Agency accreditation was possible because of many improvements at Metro Parks over the last four years:
- The City of Parks initiative – which is adding thousands of acres of new park land, improving existing parks, and building a 100-mile paved metro loop path – has become the nation’s largest urban parks expansion effort.
- The department’s arts and cultural offerings have expanded, through educational partnerships with the Louisville Orchestra and the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in community centers, and the addition of Historic Locust Grove and Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing to the department’s properties.
- The department’s first-ever comprehensive Recreation Plan, developed in 2005, is guiding improvements in community centers, youth athletics, and services for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
- Continued expansion of the nation’s largest municipal urban forest, the 6,191-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest in Fairdale, has attracted more attention and increased use to that property.
- A new Natural Areas maintenance program is improving the condition of properties that function primarily as wooded nature preserves.
The accreditation commission is comprised of representatives from the National Recreation and Park Association, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials, the International City/County Managers Association, the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation, the Armed Forces Recreation Society, and the Council of State Executive Directors.