What Does It Mean To Be a CAPRA Volunteer?

By Bob Bierscheid | Posted on December 2, 2022

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In 1993, my city manager in Roseville, Minnesota (home of the very first TARGET store), sent me a note on the new accreditation process (CAPRA) for parks and recreation. Following extensive research, we applied and were selected as one of the first eight agencies to go through the process. They were also looking for site visitors to confirm that agencies had evidence showing they had the standards required for CAPRA certification. I applied and was selected to be a site visitor for the fourth agency to go through the CAPRA process.

I knew this experience would greatly help me prepare our own agency for the CAPRA visit. At that moment, my professional life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In more than 50 years of my parks and recreation work, I truly believe that the CAPRA process is the most important tool we have to ensure quality in our work.

As a CAPRA volunteer, I have been privileged to have participated in 32 CAPRA visits and eight mentoring projects, and had the opportunity to serve two terms on the CAPRA Commission. 

So, what does it mean to be a CAPRA volunteer? You are the eyes and ears of the CAPRA Commission. You are a professionally trained auditor. In other words, you inspect the evidence for compliance with each standard. Award programs are good, and I encourage you to participate in them. But, the real difference is that, unlike award applications, all aspects of the CAPRA process are professionally inspected to ensure that the standards are being met.

So really, why have I thought so highly about my CAPRA experience? My volunteer work with CAPRA has led me to these realizations:

  • First, I have often said, “honest professional thievery is a great approach to learning.”  As a CAPRA volunteer, I have learned so much from these agency visits. Seeing projects, activities, staffing and venues has given me dozens of professional ideas I have used in my own agencies. In Roseville, for example, it encouraged us to be more introspective and needs-based in our recreation planning and evaluation. In Saint Paul, CAPRA led us to develop an asset management program for the creation of a long-term capital improvement plan.
  • Equally important are the number of professional relationships I have made from meeting park and recreation people from all over the country. Agency staff, community members and fellow CAPRA team members have interacted and socialized with me over the years.
  • The knowledge I have obtained by volunteering in the CAPRA process has been incredible. Learning the importance of critical safety measures, risk management, organizational structures, planning, policy development, goal setting, community engagement, staffing consistency, activity design, financial arrangements and evaluations have made my day-to-day actions so much stronger.
  • As a trained volunteer in this extremely important effort, you will be recognized and appreciated by your staff, associates, professionals and community members. As an additional bonus, your resumé will be improved.

By participating in this process, your commitment to your profession and your community is evident. I strongly believe as a result of my many years of experience with CAPRA, “The parks and recreation services you provide for your communities are not just nice...THEY ARE ESSENTIAL in improving physical, mental and social well-being!” CAPRA is a critical tool in making this happen.

Is there any downside to CAPRA participation? Well, once I had to forego a stop at a Krispy Kreme because our visitation tour was so captivating. Other than that, my extensive participation in the CAPRA process has been one of the highlights of my 50-plus professional years.

Find out for yourself! For additional information on how you can become part of enhancing our work by participating as a CAPRA professional, contact capra@nrpa.org.

If you have questions, need additional information on the process, or clarification on any CAPRA-related matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Anything! Feel free to email me at bobb2845@comcast.net or call me at (651) 403-3680.

Ready to get involved and serve as a CAPRA volunteer? Click here to learn more and sign up today!

Bob Bierscheid (he/him) is the retired director of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation (Minnesota).