What was once a parking lot adjacent to Bella Vista Elementary School in Oakland has been transformed into a modern playground where children now play at recess and families gather on weekends. In the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, a park with outdated play equipment will get a major upgrade, giving the surrounding community a safe place for recreation. And in nearby Visitacion Valley, residents have helped establish a ribbon of mini-parks that includes a community garden, walking paths, and a playground.
The creation of these outdoor oases in some of the most underserved and challenged communities in the Bay Area is part of the Parks for People Program, an initiative of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization supported by the Hewlett Foundation.
Foundation funding is being used to support all aspects of TPL’s work to revitalize these and other urban parks, including securing public and private funds for projects, and undertaking a collaborative community outreach, design, and stewardship process.
Bella Vista Park
At Bella Vista Elementary School, students said their recently-renovated park and playground, with its new play structures, outdoor stage and community plaza, picnic tables, butterfly and native gardens, and large synthetic turf field for soccer and football, was a major improvement over the asphalt and concrete surface that previously covered the 1.6 acre area.
Over a six year period, TPL worked with the local community, the City of Oakland, and Bella Vista School to transform the site to an inviting outdoor space that services as both a city park and the recess area for the Bella Vista’s 500 students.
Visitacion Valley Community Garden
Across the Bay in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood, TPL also worked closely with local residents to construct and maintain a two-acre garden on several lots running through the heart of the community. The design of the site was created with significant input from neighborhood gardeners and other interested community members.
The Visitacion Valley Greenway provides a space for residents to grow flowers, vegetables, native plants, and it includes a playground. The site also serves as an outdoor classroom for local children to learn about environmental stewardship. Residents say the community garden has become a catalyst for other neighborhood improvements.
Potrero Hill Park
In nearby Potrero Hill, TPL is refurbishing an existing playground that divides a middle-income community and two public housing complexes. The goal of the project is to create a safe and accessible outdoor recreational space that serves as a shared resource for all children and families in the area.
In order to meet the needs of Potrero Hill residents, TPL is conducting extensive outreach activities to engage neighbors in community design meetings. The park is expected to be completed in 2007.
TPL plans to continue its work in the Bay Area and expand to other cities. More information is available at www.tpl.org.