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MetroParks gets perfect rating from national accreditation group

Five Rivers MetroParks is 10th park system in Ohio to receive the recognition.

Five Rivers MetroParks has earned national accreditation after fully meeting 151 different standards, which park officials say shows the organization follows established best practices and is using taxpayer dollars responsibly.

Five Rivers MetroParks becomes the 10th park system in Ohio and the 154th nationwide to earn accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies.

The commission’s stamp of approval is an assurance that MetroParks provides a high level of quality when evaluated using official benchmarks, according to the group. Only a fraction of accredited park systems earned perfect scores during their initial evaluations.

MetroParks has developed a 10-year comprehensive master plan to be a blueprint for maintaining and enhancing the park system, and the organization is currently collecting public input to craft plans for every individual park.

“The community in Montgomery County should know the park commissioners are representing them well and making good, responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” said Irby Brinson, lead visitor from the commission team and a retired park director.

Five Rivers MetroParks learned it was awarded accreditation earlier this month at the 2016 annual conference of the National Recreation and Park Association. The award was presented to MetroParks board of directors last week.

There are thousands of park and recreation agencies across the United States.

MetroParks spent two years going through the accreditation process because it represents a form of accountability that shows county taxpayers it is providing the best services at the highest level of quality, said Karen Hesser, MetroParks’ chief of operations.

In 2015, the park system received about $19.5 million in revenue, with about 83 percent of the money coming from a property tax levy.

The park also received more than $188,000 from grants, donations and sponsorships. Officials say the accreditation should provide taxpayers and benefactors with confidence that their dollars are being well spent.

“We want people to understand that what we say we will do we are doing and will do,” Hesser said. “This was not an easy thing to accomplish.”

MetroParks also spent more than a year collecting feedback from citizens and park visitors about what they view as the most important programs and amenities.

The organization developed a 10-year master plan that outlines how it intends to improve and maintain the features, services, programs and green space people value most and gives the public a way to hold MetroParks accountable, park board members said.

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