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Gainesville parks department at top of its class again
Division earns perfect re-accreditation score
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Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation department met 100 percent compliance again this year, making it a decade of perfect scores.

The Gainesville department gained re-accreditation under the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, which is a title only 95 recreation agencies in the nation claim.

“We’re very proud of the staff and the effort that went into the accreditation process,” said Jody Cooley, chairman of the Parks and Recreation board. “We’re happy they completed the process, and it just shows how hard they work.”
Gainesville is one of five accredited cities in the state. Alpharetta was the first to gain the status in 1999, followed by Gainesville in 2000, Roswell in 2002, Carrollton in 2004 and Atlanta in 2009.

Accreditation requires agencies to meet a portion of 144 standards in 10 major categories — agency authority and role, planning, organization and administration, human resources, financial management, program services, facility land use, public safety and law enforcement, risk management and evaluation and research. To be considered for the status, the department must meet 36 essential standards and at least 92 additional requirements.

“In our original accreditation, we met all 144 and were the first in the U.S. to meet all of those,” said Melvin Cooper, director of Gainesville’s department. “When we were first accredited in 2000, it was a three-year process for us to get to the point of having everything we needed.”

The commission is the only national accreditation for park and recreation agencies, and accreditation can be renewed every five years.

“We advocate recreation as a dynamic component that improves health, enhances the livability of our communities, preserves precious resources, prevents crime and attracts business ...” Cooper said. “Being nationally accredited adds credibility to these efforts. It is an honor worn with pride by each member of our staff, board of directors and local government.”

At a Georgia Recreation & Park Association convention next week, the Gainesville department will be named state agency of the year in its population category for the 15th time in 20 years.

“We have a great team here, and we always pride ourselves on setting the bar,” Cooper said. “We feel like we provide quality service for our community, and setting the bar keeps us on our toes.”

The recognition is especially meaningful during stressed economic times, said Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan, who sits on the Gainesville Parks and Recreation board.

“It’s just remarkable to me that they’ve gotten accreditation again after the tight financial situation we’re all in right now,” he said. “They’re understaffed and overworked and doing such a great job with little resources.”

The department is now creating a five-year vision for programs and priorities.

“They’re looking at enhancing the city park, the fieldhouse at Gainesville’s football field and baseball fields,” Dunagan said. “They may eventually do something with Holly Park, and they’re looking at turning Lanier Point (Athletic Complex) into a youth complex. A lot of things are in the making.”

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