Parks and green spaces, for people and for people

Center for Health and Community Life

After a decade of work re-imagining, rebuilding, and operating Elm Playlot, the park is now a safe and beloved public green space that the whole neighborhood is proud of. Families and children visit every day to play, exercise and simply gather. Pogo Park is staffed by the park with community residents who clean and maintain it with care and love. They offer free enrichment programs for kids that include art, chess, nature education, petting, gardening, and hip hop dancing.

In addition, Elm Playlot is a trusted public space to provide necessary services to the community. It is one of Richmond’s largest distribution points for the local free school meal program, serving thousands of meals annually to children and youth from low-income families. Vision to Learn provides free eye exams and glasses to hundreds of children each year through an in-game mobile clinic.

The park and its program are not just places for children. Parents walk the park’s tricycle for exercise and daily Zumba classes. Elm Playlot has turned from dirty, dull and dangerous into a vibrant center of public life and health.

Domino effect

Since then, we’ve replicated this approach to bring a second park to life in Richmond, called Harbor 8, and build the “Yellow Brick Road,” a bike path that crosses the street. Neighborhood centers safely connect children and families to parks and other community amenities including churches, public transportation, and schools.

And our approach is gaining traction across the city and state — calling on local governments to re-examine the dynamics of power and rethink their approach to policymaking. decide around the parks in a way that puts the community at the center.

Increase park equity

There are parks like the old Elm Playlot all over the country — parks and recreation areas that are poorly maintained, understaffed, unwelcome and unsafe. And it’s no coincidence that they tend to be in neighborhoods where low-income people and people of color are more likely to live.

As in the Iron Triangle, the challenges facing these communities do not happen overnight; they are the product of decades of incompetence, racism, and harm.

It is clear that our nation needs greater equity in parks — a fairer and more equitable distribution of parks and green spaces. But park equity is more than simply having a park. That’s about more than a prescribed quota of 3.0 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. What we’ve discovered is: parks mean everyone must have access to a truly vibrant, green, safe park. alive. The way for that to happen is to establish a system that empowers locals to develop the vision, slowly over time, and enact it.

Learn more about the relationship between the environment and our health and how you can get involved in supporting equitable built spaces.

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