Clayton parks department enjoying new accreditation

Clayton County is the only county in Georgia that can boast its parks and recreation department is nationally accredited, according to the county’s top recreation official.

The county’s parks and recreation department received its accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) at its annual conference, on Nov. 2. Department officials did not formally proclaim the achievement, however, until earlier this month.

While several city parks and recreation departments in Georgia are accredited by CAPRA, there are no other county-wide departments — besides Clayton County —that can lay claim to that distinction. Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford said that is because no county has ever attained CAPRA accreditation before now.

“We have become the 102 agency [in the nation], and the first county in the state to obtain national accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies,” Stanford said. “We’re elated by their [CAPRA’s] decision. It really shows the citizens of Clayton County that we’re trying to exceed best practices for parks and recreation agencies.”

Clayton County recreation properties will now have to submit yearly reports to CAPRA, and they will have to undergo a re-accreditation review in five years, according to Stanford. But, county officials are, for now, enjoying the distinction of their newfound accreditation, and the benefits that come with it.

Stanford said it could lead to new funding opportunities for recreation programs in the county. “When we are seeking funding from state, federal or non-profit sources, one of the things they look at is what kind of department we have,” he said. “Sometimes, it helps to have that accreditation, so we will not be so dependent on the [county] general fund to continue our programs.”

The department’s director said it is a recognition of excellence within the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department. The department has approximately 267 employees, who operate 32 parks and six recreation facilities, according to Stanford. He added that the department’s staff spent the last two years working to obtain the accreditation.

It had to meet at least 123, of CAPRA’s 144 standards, to gain accreditation. Stanford said his department met 138 standards. “It shows that we have some business standards for how we operate that we are following every day,” the parks and recreation director said.

The remaining, unfulfilled standards, according to Stanford, deal with the areas of feasibility studies, community relations plans, recruitment, supervision and evaluation, community education of leisure activities, and the holding of a statement of policy. He said the department is going to chip away at those remaining standards, however, through yearly reports to CAPRA, until there are none left to fulfill.

“It is not out of the norm to not meet every standard, but we will continue to work on those areas where we do not meet their standards, to ensure we are 100 percent compliant with all of the standards in the future,” Stanford said.