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Looking back at the most cherished moments in my children’s lives, I realize many of these events occurred in our local parks — from watching my son score his first goal on the soccer field, to seeing the look of pure excitement on my daughter’s face while horseback riding along a trail, to sitting outdoors on the grass with my family enjoying a summer concert. These are the memories made possible thanks to parks and recreation. The problem is: not all communities are afforded equitable access to a quality park. This month’s issue highlights equitable park design and how innovative thinking can make park access a reality for underserved communities.
In the cover story, “Los Angeles County’s Parks Needs Assessment Plus,” on page 34, contributor Clement Lau discusses how the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation is leading the county’s “30x30” plan for preserving “30 percent of lands and coastal waters by the year 2030 to fight climate change, advance conservation and protect biodiversity.” What’s more, the county’s 2022 Parks Needs Assessment Plus final report utilizes wide-ranging data collection and analysis, as well as geographic information system (GIS) mapping, to identify the most underrepresented Los Angeles County communities, which lack accessible parks and sufficient tree coverage. He writes, “This strategy reimagines conservation through an equity lens to include both traditional efforts that involve the protection of natural lands and the restoration of degraded lands, especially in lower-income communities of color where vulnerable populations and environmental burdens are concentrated.”
Of course, equitable park design should not be restricted to just humans. Our canine companions also deserve quality green spaces, as pointed out in the feature article, “Designing a Destination Dog Park,” on page 40. Contributor Brian “BK” Koehler shares valuable tips and crucial design essentials, along with practical advice for constructing a dog park in your community. In addition, Koehler underscores the importance of designing these parks as welcoming and inclusive gathering spots for both pups and people.
Lastly, author John Prue explains how park and recreation agencies can support an environment that embraces originality and forward thinking in the article, “Implementing Innovation,” on page 44. While “thinking outside the box” isn’t a novel concept, Prue asserts that “organizational innovation” is what “fosters a culture where people are encouraged to create new thoughts and ideas,” as well as “allows for the action of putting these new ideas into practice, despite challenges, resistance, risk and other outside factors.” He also provides real-world examples of park and recreation agencies putting innovative thought into action.
It’s the important work that these pioneering park and recreation agencies continue to do that will help ensure all people have the opportunity to create their own lasting memories in parks.
Vitisia “Vi” Paynich, Executive Editor and Director of Print and Online Content, NRPA