Oct 25, 2021, 1:00 PM, Posted by Toody Maher
Communities should be empowered to create safe, green, vibrant spaces and parks that everyone can access. Read how a group of citizens worked to support park equity, and how you can play a role, too.
The first time I visited Elm Playlot was on a bright, sunny afternoon in May 2007.
Elm Playlot is a small, one-half acre pocket park in the heart of Richmond, California’s “Iron Triangle” neighborhood. It is one of the few city parks and playgrounds in the Iron Triangle. The park serves a densely populated, diverse neighborhood that I knew was chock-full of children. However, when I visited Elm Playlot that afternoon in May, I didn’t see a single child playing there.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why.
A group of men sat on Elm Playlot’s benches drinking alcohol. The play structure and swings were tagged top-to-bottom with graffiti and menacing gang slogans. Litter was piled up around the picnic tables, the slide, and the swings: broken glass, hypodermic needles, cigarette butts, used condoms, empty liquor bottles.
Later, in conversations with community residents, I would learn that parents had regularly told their children not to play at Elm Playlot; it was too dangerous.