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The city of Brownsville’s Parks and Recreation Department was recently nationally accredited through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, or CAPRA — the nation’s only accreditation of parks and recreation departments.

Of more than 23,000 parks departments in the United States, only 208 — less than 1% — are CAPRA accredited.

Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez said the CAPRA accreditation “is a testament to our team’s hard work, dedication and vision for the future of parks, trails and recreation, and open space in Brownsville.”

“We as a city are committed to continuous improvement of our parks and recreation facilities across Brownsville, and we are excited to uphold and surpass rigorous standards for the benefit of the people we serve in our community,” she said.

A view of one of the many trails at the new Mountain Bike Trail and Exercise Court at Pedro “Pete” Benavides County Park Mountain Bike Trail in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

CAPRA, which is under the National Recreation and Parks Association, or NRPA, assists parks departments throughout the country to improve infrastructure, increase efficiency and demonstrate accountability within their communities “by helping them build a comprehensive management system of operational best practices,” according to NRPA.

“Implementation of this system strengthens teamwork among department staff, embeds all aspects of CAPRA into their department’s internal culture, and establishes a continuous improvement mindset for all department activities,” the association says on its website.

“This endorsement signals that the Brownsville (Parks and Recreation Department) has successfully met rigorous criteria related to the management and administration of lands, facilities, resources, programs, safety and community services,” according to the city.

Brownsville Parks and Recreation Interim Director Alan Guard congratulated his team and said the recognition proves the department’s dedication to providing top-tier services to city residents.

Going for CAPRA accreditation requires a six-step process: submitting a preliminary application and fee, attending accreditation “basics and standards” training online, developing a self-assessment report, presenting the report to a CAPRA team for initial review, hosting CAPRA Review Team members for on-site or virtual visitation, and attending an official CAPRA hearing in person or virtually during NRPA’s annual conference.

Re-accreditation through CAPRA is required every five years, according to NRPA.

Brownsville’s Parks and Recreation Department manages 40 parks encompassing more than 1,000 acres of parkland, which includes 32 miles of hike-and-bike trails, three gyms, a public pool, over 55 athletic fields, a sports park, event center, golf center, historic cemetery and a dog park.