Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department earns national reaccreditation

Staff members recognized during Oct. 24 County Commission meeting

The Sarasota County commissioners and County Administrator Jonathan Lewis join members of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department for the Oct. 24 recognition. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

The Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department has earned reaccreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), county staff has announced.

“This distinguished accomplishment” was recognized during the 2023 NRPA Annual Conference, a news release notes.

CAPRA accreditation — which “is the only national accreditation for park and recreation agencies,” the release points out — “is a measure of an agency’s overall quality of operation, management and service to the community. This mark of distinction indicates an agency has met rigorous standards related to the management and administration of lands, facilities, resources, programs, safety and services.”

On its website, CAPRA lists the following benefits that accreditation affords community members:

  • “Demonstrates that the organization meets national standards of best practice.
  • “Recognizes the community as a great place to live.
  • “Helps secure external financial support and reduce costs for the community.
  • “Holds an organization accountable to the public and ensures responsiveness to meet their needs.
  • “Ensures that all staff are providing quality customer service.”

The news release also notes, “Sarasota County had to demonstrate compliance with 154 recognized standards and document all policies and procedures as part of the reaccreditation process. Often this process helps identify efficiencies and heighten areas of accountability, all of which translate into higher quality service and operation to benefit the community.”

During recognition of members of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff during the Oct. 24 County Commission meeting, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis explained that staff in county departments are always looking for opportunities to improve — how to be more effective and provide better services, for examples.

“One of those ways we accomplish it as an organization,” he continued, “is we look for opportunities to be nationally accredited. What accreditation does is it puts us up against standards.”

An outside team of assessors reviews a department’s operations to determine how well it meets the established standards, he added.

The reaccreditation of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, Lewis emphasized, “is a very big deal.” More than 19,000 local governments exist across the United States, he pointed out, and most of them have parks. Yet, he said, only 200 of them have accredited parks departments, and only 25 of those are in Florida.

Referring to the 154 standards, Lewis added, PRNR did not have any deficiencies.

Nicole Rissler, director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources in the county, said in the news release, “This remarkable achievement reflects the dedication of Sarasota County and its employees who tirelessly serve our vibrant community day in and day out. Reaccreditation of our agency validates our department’s commitment to Sarasota County as the ultimate destination to live, work and play.”

“Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is an award-winning agency that manages more than 55,000 acres of park land, including beaches, trails, natural areas, athletic facilities, recreation centers and water access parks,” the release adds.