Loveland’s Parks and Recreation Department becomes 10th in Colorado to hold national accreditation

'It will really keep us on our toes. It’s a benchmarking for our own selves.'

LOVELAND, CO – NOVEMBER 9, 2020: Rosemary Wrzos, right, takes a photo of a bronze sculpture titled ‘ Endangered Grace’ on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, while walking through Benson Sculpture Park with her husband, Dan Luecke and dog, Sophie. The two said they have a smaller version of the same sculpture at home in Boulder. (Jenny Sparks / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Loveland’s Parks and Recreation Department announced Friday that it has earned national accreditation, marking the end of a two-year process that included an evaluation based on more than 150 standards.

The department’s director, Elizabeth Kayl, said the distinction is proof that the administrators of Loveland’s parks, trails and rec facilities are “at the top of their game.”

“It should mean a lot for the community that their parks and recreation agency that’s primarily funded by tax dollars is the best it can be,” she said. “We have some pretty amazing, high-quality professionals in our department.”

To earn the distinction, the department satisfied 150 out of 151 review criteria and virtually hosted a team from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies and the National Recreation and Park Association.

Project manager Molly Elder said the city spent years preparing to meet the standards evaluated by the commission.

“For me, the benefit wasn’t even getting the certificate; it was going through all of our policies, our manuals and staff trainings, and making sure they’re all up to date and make sense,” she said. “Even if we weren’t accredited, I would have come away thinking it was the right thing to do.”

Particular strengths noted by the commission in its report included Loveland’s “positive organizational culture,” “great use of evaluations/community feedback” and “good training programs.” The department failed to meet one standard out of 151 because it does not have a sustainability plan. Kayl said staff members are waiting until a citywide plan is drafted.

COVID-19 forced the commission to set up a remote visit using Zoom teleconferencing software for the first time in the history of the accreditation process, Kayl said.

In one part of their report on the multiple meetings between the two groups, members of the commission noted that they “discussed sites and facilities we would have seen and visited as well as places where we would have eaten” had they been able to visit Loveland.

The pandemic also meant the city was unable to accept the distinction in person at the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference, which is typically held in Orlando, Fla., but this year was held remotely in late October.

“It was a bit of a disappointment that we weren’t able to show them all of the things Loveland has to offer,” Elder said.

Still, she said the agency will have to be reaccredited in five years. In the meantime, Kayl said the standards will continue to set a high bar for the city.

“It will really keep us on our toes. It’s a benchmarking for our own selves,” she said.

Loveland joins nine other Colorado agencies and a total of 185 agencies across the country that have earned the accreditation.

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