Saving the World One Park at a Time

By Stacie Anaya | Posted on January 15, 2019

Saving the World 410

2018 was a year of “aha” moments and growth for the Lewisville Parks & Recreation Department. In March, the City Council adopted the update to our Parks Master Plan. As Mayor Rudy Durham had signed the 10-Minute Walk pledge the previous October, one key component of the plan is providing access to a high-quality park for every resident in Lewisville within a 10-minute walk of home.

In April, we became one of 12 cities to receive a technical assistance and planning grant from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) for the 10-Minute Walk campaign. At the kickoff workshop in Chicago, we had focused conversations with our fellow cohorts and team members from the 10-Minute Walk partners (NRPA, The Trust for Public Land and the Urban Land Institute) about our strategies for achieving our goals. Both our cohorts and the partners challenged our team to stretch our imaginations and find new tools to approach the tasks at hand. 

Personally, the moment that had the greatest impact at the workshop was our collective review of the PolicyLink Social Equity Manifesto — “It requires that we understand the past without being trapped in it; embrace the present without being constrained by it; and look to the future guided by the hopes and courage of those who fought before and beside us.” The discussion provided a new lens to see our park system through, as well as an urgency to move forward.

Our ParkServe map demonstrates what is true through many communities throughout the country — poor urban planning contributes to a systematic segregation of access to public spaces and services. When overlaid with our Community Development Block Grant Map, the areas eligible for funding fall directly in line with our park deserts. The manifesto drove home that: (1) we must recognize the disparities exist; (2) learn what led to the disparities over the long course of history without laying personal blame; and (3) take bold actions to alleviate the disparities at a much quicker pace than they developed. Fortunately, I work in a community where current leadership supports and celebrates this line of thinking.

Upon our return to Lewisville, we hit the ground running. We updated the Parkland Dedication Ordinance to give the department the capacity to acquire land from residential development, executed an agreement via our GIS department to map and network our sidewalk and trail system, and expanded our outreach efforts to historically under represented residents by visiting churches, community fairs and regional events. On October 10 (10/10), we celebrated the first anniversary of the 10-Minute Walk campaign by hosting walkability assessments at two parks. 

We accomplished a lot in 2018 but we have more to do in 2019. Formally, we are working with ULI to identify strategies for addressing a park desert in the heart of our community, meeting with the school district to discuss using some school yards as parks and kicking off our effort to establish a social equity model for scheduling park improvements. Informally, we’re determined to have fun while saving the world one park at a time by visiting our parks not as administrators but as park fans; turning meetings into meet-ups at a park; ditching our vehicles and approaching parks from pedestrian paths and neighborhoods; playing a pick-up game with the neighborhood kids or our families at the courts; or making friends by striking up a conversation with someone new to learn how we can turn them into park fans. 2019 — watch out, we’re on a roll!

Stacie Anaya is the Director of Lewisville Parks & Recreation Department.

Is your agency committed to enhancing park access and quality for your city? You can take part in the 10-Minute Walk campaign by joining our 10-Minute Walk group on NRPA Connect and signing up for the 10-Minute Walk Learning Series.