Righteous Outreach: Long Beach’s Innovative Ways of Engaging the Community in Park Planning
This post is part of our inaugural Park Week Series: Long Beach is for Park Lovers. This week, we will be celebrating parks and open space in the city and beyond. To see all posts for this series, click here.
For pictures, scroll through the gallery above.
City 101 Program
We Are the Next is a nonprofit that empowers the next generation to engage with their city, and that means engaging them with green spaces.
This Spring, they partnered up with the Long Beach Public Library to bring high school students from Jordan High School to Houghton Park so kids could get a behind-the-scenes look into how our City manages the 100+ parks in its system as part of their CITY101 program. Students responded that they increased their knowledge of our City’s parks by 20% over the course of the two-hour workshop at Houghton Park held in partnership with Long Beach Parks, Recreation, and Marine.
In the workshop, students participated in relay through the Houghton Park fitness loop, made maps of the park’s amenities, and learned how to report issues using the GO! Long Beach app city-wide. One student shared that her favorite part of the program was “learning the benefits of what community parks offer and what I as a resident can do to make my city a better place/community,” in the words of Executive Director Katie Rispoli.
“I’ve lived in Long Beach for nine years, and from my first days in this city until now, its parks have played a role in my friendships, work, and life experiences. Working with youth in this city, I recognize the strong role that these places play in the lives of our youngest residents as well.”
The Open Space Game
Last year, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation released their Countywide Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment which helps to quantify the need for parks and recreation in a neighborhood.
Through spatial analysis, the needs assessment identified North Long Beach as having a disproportionally high need for publically accessible open space as compared to the rest of the City and the County.
In addition, there are limited opportunities to develop new parks given that the neighborhood is mostly built-out and the high cost of land. In response, the Office of Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, in collaboration with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine as well as City Fabrick, a local nonprofit design studio, identified several locations to convert and transform underutilized land into potential public open spaces.
The project team obtained input from residents, business owners and City officials to further refine these open space locations and filter out ideas that are infeasible. What made this process unique was the development of an interactive game where participants were to collaboratively act as park planners and identify new public space opportunities and the amenities within the real-life parameters of land use conflicts, political feasibility and limited budgets.
The activity was repeated at several community workshops held throughout North Long Beach, and in total, over 140 new open space ideas were identified. Workshop participants were able to contribute their ideas in a creative way and gained understanding to the challenges of park and recreation planning.
North Long Beach Color Block Walk
The Color Block Walk was a celebration of the North Long Beach community’s effort to identify new opportunities for publically accessible open space. It was also an opportunity to prototype the most popular open space idea in a fun and engaging way—the 91 Freeway Embankment Loop.
Using color powder, the Color Block Walk was an opportunity to highlight the progress of the Uptown Open Space Plan, which sets forth the vision to increase access to open space in the upcoming decades in park-poor North Long Beach.
Unlike traditional public outreach events, the Color Block Walk captured a diverse range of participants, capturing a greater diversity of community members. Participants also had the opportunity to share their opinion and vote on priority open space projects and learn about the process it took to get there.
The inspiration drew mainly from the urban design concept of tactical urbanism which uses low-cost materials to temporarily demonstrate infrastructure improvements to gauge the level of community support. A large portion of the event’s success can be attributed to the community organizations that partnered together as well as the support from various City of Long Beach departments.