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People for Parks is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization working to improve the built environment for a more livable Los Angeles. Since 1989, we’ve worked to revitalize run down and crime-ridden parks that had suffered years of neglect. We’ve innovated important new programs that have brought parks and play programs where they’re needed most. We’ve worked to expand public funding for parks and recreation programs serving the Southland.
Los Angeles enjoys abundant natural beauty and diversity, yet it’s one of the most "under-parked of the nation’s major cities. In Boston and New York, over 90% of all kids live within walking distance of a park, compared to only 33% in LA.
People for Parks is already transforming LA with innovative programs that make communities healthier. We’ve changed lives with simple but powerful tools: blades of bright grass and a ball. Sometimes a simple solution to big problems lies before us -- right at our feet.
WHAT WE DOWe’re cracking concrete to create a green field of dreams.
People for Parks tackles Los Angeles’ toughest problems with a simple solution: we build places for kids to play and families to engage in healthy activities.
With our mission to put a park within walking distance of every kid in LA, we do this in two ways:
We find creative solutions to add new park space in dense, park-poor neighborhoods, like ourCommunity-School Parks.
And we work to make existing parks safer, while enriching the lives of kids who need them.
Adding New Park Space: Community-School Parks
Many of LA’s most impacted neighborhoods not only lack park space, but also lack available land on which to build. When there are empty lots, often they are contaminated. Yet there are elementary schools evenly distributed throughout the city. But LA’s public elementary schools are almost all asphalt "heat islands" and fenced and locked all summer long. We work to green elementary school yards, then get them opened as a public park on weekends and summers when school is not in session. Transforming existing space is a much more affordable way to quickly scale up park expansion than purchasing new land and building from scratch.
Making Existing Parks Safer: Smart Recreation and One Watts
Smart Recreation is a set of athletic or leisure activities intentionally designed to achieve positive social goals. For example, studies have shown that youth sports can sometimes increase aggression and violence among participants. However, when coaches are properly trained in youth development and have the skills to build positive character and social cohesion, youth sports can have great results for youth. PFP works to bring Smart Recreation techniques to public recreation programs. PFP’s One Watts - Watts Unido program is a prime example of Smart Recreation.
Our One Watts-Watts Unido program serves low income youth (ages 10-14) in and around the Watts housing developments of Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs, and Imperial Courts. Traditionally, the recreation centers at these sites have operated as separate silos with little interaction between the other sites, reinforcing neighborhood gang territory barriers. When the kids get to Markham Middle School, which draws from several rival neighborhoods, the resulting clashes based on gang alliances lead to high rates of truancy, vandalism and violenceat school.
Working in partnership with the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, the county Parks and Recreation Department, the LAPD and others, People for Parks is leading a program that builds friendships across these barriers by creating sports teams that mix rival neighborhoods on the same team. This is powerful even for the parents who come to root for their kids at games, cheering for the same team alongside families from rival neighborhoods. In addition to the sports activities, the program includes youth leadership development, relationship building and parent engagement programming, coupled with safe transportation to enable participation.
- Jessica Ellis
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