Building Healthy Children and Communities, One Park At a Time

In one of the Bay Area’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods, Richmond’s Iron Triangle, we are transforming two little-used city parks (Elm Playlot and Harbour-8 Park) into safe and vibrant places for children to play.

We hired and train a team of 11 local residents – all parents! – to design, build, and now manage these two parks themselves.

We aim to use the transformation of Elm Playlot and Harbour-8 Park as a vehicle to improve the health of 5,000 of at-risk children living in the Iron Triangle neighborhood.

A new model for community transformation

Pogo Park is about much more than playgrounds. Our unique approach combines two distinct but interrelated strategies: child development and community development.

Parents of every race, ethnicity, and economic condition share one trait: hope for their children’s future. But the people of the Iron Triangle, like residents of underserved inner-city neighborhoods all over the U.S., have seen a progression of failed efforts to solve the chronic problems of poverty, ineffective schools, and unsafe streets that imperil their children’s healthy development.

Great parks and playgrounds give children and youth profound health benefits. Rich, active outdoor play is the mother’s milk of healthy development. Research shows that such play improves physical and psychological health as well as language skills and boosts social skills, empathy, creativity, and imagination. Children who play are less aggressive, show more self-control and higher levels of thinking and have fewer attention disorders than nonplayers. Active outdoor play is a highly effective way to prevent and reverse childhood obesity.

Pogo Park makes our playgrounds safe and welcoming by staffing them with playworkers, or park stewards. These trained adults watch over the space and create enriched play environments that spark children’s imagination and initiative.

Our model for transforming parks also functions as a mini-stimulus plan in the Iron Triangle, where residents suffer from the devastating effects of poverty and unemployment. In the last three years, Pogo Park has directed more than $1,000,000 in back into the neighborhood in contracts with local Iron Triangle businesses and in wages to hire and train local residents.

Pogo Park’s impact is visible in the lives of the local residents we have hired, the parks that are being restored, and in the electrifying effect of this community development model on the entire neighborhood.