People-for Parks-has developed a plan to reenergize the school system by greening school playgrounds and opening them for public use outside school hours. The organization’s president and vice president are calling on community, environmental and parents’ groups to help turn their idea of four main components—greening, recreation enrichment, educational support and gang diversion—into a reality.
According to People for Parks, only 33 percent of children in Los Angeles have access to a park, and they have taken on the task of increasing that park space to not only the students but also the members of the community.
“Los Angeles is one of the most park-poor places in the country,” says Jack Foley, who heads the organization. “We rank 12th among large U.S. cities—and last on the West Coast—in providing children a playground within walking distance. Access to a park is especially dismal in low-income and minority neighborhoods. ...The situation is about to get worse.
“We propose,” he continues, “what we call ‘community school parks’ where the school becomes the sense of community for the neighborhood.”
The “community school parks” concept includes converting asphalt on the campuses of the Los Angeles Unified School Districts’ elementary, middle and secondary schools into turf, or replacing the hard ground with trees and gardens. According to the organization, the turf could be used for multi-purpose field sports, picnic areas and for beautification; trees reduce energy costs and school beautification develops pride and respect for school property; and gardens offer effective learning experiences and have been found to improve the education experience.
The concept also calls for the parks to be open seven days a week in order for the school’s surrounding community to take advantage of the green space.
“This is a community issue,” says John Perez, vice president. “This is an issue of livability for the people of the community.”
He added, “A fundamental proposition of the program is that we don’t want the school district or the city telling a school this is going to happen. We expect that every single school in the pilot project will be a school where the site council has said ‘we want to play in this ballpark.’
“We want this to be a ground-up situation. ...We want the people at the actual site to say we want a community-school park in our neighborhood.”
For further information, visit www.peopleforparks.org.