Transforming lives by transforming public space

In one of the Bay Area’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods, Richmond’s Iron Triangle, we are building great parks and playgrounds. By turning broken city parks into safe and magical play spaces, we are improving the health and well-being of thousands of at-risk children. This effort is led and staffed by local residents, with help from friends and supporters all over the Bay Area and beyond.

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 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 $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.