“Turning the Lights On” in City Parks

Pogo Park is a nonprofit grassroots community effort in Richmond, California’s Iron Triangle–one of the toughest, most underserved inner-city neighborhoods in the U.S.–to transform its dispirited and little-used parks and playgrounds into safe, green, vibrant public spaces for children to play and families to gather. This effort is led and staffed by local residents, with help from friends and supporters all over the Bay Area and beyond.

Our work has two goals:

  • First, to provide children living in low-income communities with high-quality, enriched play opportunities that are intentionally designed to spark and foster healthy child development.
  • Second, to use the transformation of broken city parks as a vehicle for healthy community development. We do this by energizing and mobilizing the surrounding neighborhood: we hire, train, and empower local residents to envision, design, build, and manage these beautifully re-imagined community spaces themselves.

By working with local residents to transform Iron Triangle parks into dynamic public play spaces, Pogo Park is developing a new model for “turning the lights on” in thousands of inner-city parks and playgrounds–now lying unused and dormant–in neighborhoods across the country that need great parks the most.

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 $500,000 in wages back into the neighborhood to hire and train local residents at Elm Playlot, our first Pogo Park project. We have two other Iron Triangle park projects currently moving towards construction–Harbour-8 Park and Unity Park on the Richmond Greenway.

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.