Vernon Hills Park District Receives Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency Award

February 20, 2024

The Vernon Hills Park District has been recognized as an Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency by the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA).

The two statewide associations administer the Illinois Distinguished Accreditation program with the goal of improving the delivery of park and recreation services to Illinois residents. “Illinois is recognized as having the best park districts, forest preserves, conservation, recreation and special recreation agencies in the nation,” said Peter Murphy, IAPD President and CEO. “Our Distinguished Accreditation program provides an opportunity for these agencies to undergo a voluntary, comprehensive evaluation process to demonstrate that they have met established guidelines to provide exceptional park and recreation services to their communities.”

“This outstanding program gives recognition to park and recreation agencies and forest preserve districts that go above and beyond in their dedication to provide quality programs, services, and facilities designed to fulfill their community’s needs,” said Margaret Resnick, IPRA Interim Executive Director. “The end result is to improve the quality of life for Illinois residents.”

A park district or recreation agency interested in applying for Distinguished Accredited Agency recognition undergoes a detailed, lengthy process of application and evaluation. A Joint Distinguished Park and Recreation Accreditation Committee (JDPRAC) comprised of members from IAPD and IPRA coordinates the process. “Agencies submit a self-evaluation and a formal letter requesting admission into the process,” said Bill Cohen, IAPD Co-Chair of the JDPRAC. “If the committee determines the agency is eligible to continue the process, we send them an evaluation date.”

According to Cohen, on the day of the evaluation, the agency presents documented information and gives a tour of pertinent facilities and parks for the evaluation team’s review. The team reviews general management procedures, finance and business operations, facilities and parks, personnel, recreation services, legal documentation and other materials including mission statements, goals, and safety manuals.

Upon completion of the evaluation, the agency is notified in writing of the official results within ten days. Agencies that have achieved Distinguished Accredited status are recognized during the IAPD/IPRA Annual Conference in January.

“There are tremendous benefits for an agency that achieves Distinguished Accredited status,” said Carlo Capalbo, IPRA Co-Chair of the JDPRAC. “The agency’s application and review process are an excellent self-evaluation and agencies that apply realize increased operational efficiency and effectiveness. Communities can have confidence that their park district, forest preserve district, or recreation agency employs qualified professionals and has met professional standards.”

The Vernon Hills Park District applied for the Illinois Distinguished Accreditation program in March, 2022.  Jeff Fougerousse, Executive Director: “We are very proud and excited to be awarded this prestigious recognition”.

In compliance with the program, the Vernon Hills Park District will be reevaluated in six years to verify that they have continued to demonstrate sound management practices in providing quality park and recreation services to the community.

IAPD is a non-profit service, research, and education organization that serves park districts, forest preserves, conservation, and recreation agencies. The association advances these agencies, their citizen board members, and professional staff in their ability to provide outstanding park and recreation opportunities, preserve natural resources and improve the quality of life for all people in Illinois.

Established in 1944, IPRA provides and promotes exceptional standards of education, networking, and resources for all professionals in the Illinois park, recreation, and conservation communities.