How A Park Can Change A Community

Over the years, I’ve come to notice the positive changes new playgrounds can often exert on neighborhoods. Parks that were once either underutilized, or the centers of violent or illegal activities, are transformed into places where families gather and children play. The benefits of this kind of transformation can be enormous: crime decreases, property values increase, local businesses often thrive, and community security and wellbeing increase. In his famous book of the same name, Malcolm Gladwell talks about “Tipping Points”, events that can precipitate profound social or cultural change. Park and playground renovations are often tipping points, catalysts of positive changes in many communities.

The latest example I’ve seen is Temescal Creek Park, in the San Francisco Bay Area, a recently renovated neighborhood park in the City of Emeryville. Designed by landscape architect John Cahalan, Temescal Creek Park renovation was the culmination of many hours of planning and community collaboration.  Temescal Creek Park features a mature, wooded setting, which the City of Emeryville and local residents wished to preserve. Landscape Structures’ Nature-Inspired component system was selected unanimously by community members to blend with the park’s natural setting.  Ross Recreation collaborated closely with John to create challenging and attractive play spaces for both preschool and school age children. The completed project received a “Bay-Friendly” rating of 93 out of 100 points. Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes is a rating system that recognizes excellence in sustainable landscape design and construction practices in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to John Cahalan, Landscape Structures’ considerable use of post-consumer recycled content contributed significantly to the project’s high environmental rating. Mike Mahoney of the City’s Public Works Department has noted a change for the better with how the park is now used. With more young families visiting, use patterns have shifted from drug deals and gang activity to parents and grandparents regularly visiting the new playground: “The new playground is helping transform the neighborhood”, says Mike.

By Ewing Philbin

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