City parks system gains some national attention


Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.

Gainesville’s parks system has recently gained some national attention.

In October, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department received accreditation from the National Recreation and Parks Association. Nationwide, Gainesville is one of only 119 departments to receive that accreditation.

This week, the city announced that the prestigious Rand Corporation, a nonprofit organization specializing in research on policy making, along with the the City Parks Alliance and the Trust for Public Land selected Gainesville as one of 25 departments across the country to include in a study on best management practices at neighborhood parks.

That study will include site visits to eight parks. Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Steve Phillips said the city does not yet know which sites will be selected. Phillips said he feels the department’s s recent accreditation was the reason Gainesville was selected for the study.

The department began preparation to apply for accreditation some two years back. Phillips said the review process lasted about one year. It included a site visit in July to about 12 locations - including Ironwood Golf Club, Possum Creek Park and Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Park.

Phillips said the department will be able to point to accreditation when applying for competitive grant funding. He said the process also gave the department the opportunity to review and evaluate all its policies and procedures.

Jen Gelfand, the department’s program coordinator, said the National Recreation and Parks Association evaluated the department in 10 separate categories that included 144 total standards. Staff development, department structure, finances, planning, current programs for the public, park security and land management at nature parks were among the areas reviewed.

“It shows that we are meeting standards on the national level,” Gelfand said.

After initial accreditation, the parks system will be up for review every five years.

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