Pogo Park uses innovative strategies to empower local communities to reclaim, plan, build and manage their parks.
Long-Term, In-Depth Community Information Gathering
Pogo Park utilizes multi-strategy, long-term community information gathering activities, implemented by community members. Our projects start with local residents, helping them to develop common goals and a shared vision for their public spaces, and empowering them to get these spaces built. Much of our public outreach efforts are planned and implemented by local residents, who know best how to reach their neighbors. All of our projects strive to solve specific cultural, political, environmental, health and educational problems, based on the needs and priorities the communities we work with have articulated for themselves.
Changing “The Build It And They Will Come” Approach To “Come And Build It!”
Time has demonstrated that the traditional “design-bid-build” approach does not work for inner-city parks. We do the opposite: we work from the ground-up, rather than top-down. We start by inspiring locals to make their neighborhood parks clean, safe, and interesting with simple, affordable methods. Once residents are committed to their public spaces, funding, restoring and maintaining them in the long term is much easier and effective. Instead of feeling like a public space has been designed and built for and by others, the people who use our parks know they created it themselves for their own community.
Just Starting: Pop Up Parks
Locating funding for parks is challenging and sometimes the best way to make change is just to start. We begin to restore public spaces in neighborhoods by simply activating them. We arrange cleanups to spruce existing parks and provide tables, chairs and loose parts like balls and other toys. We also help organize temporary installations such as sand boxes, murals and even shipping containers for park offices or cafes. Once a park becomes a reliable place to play, children use it and families feel a sense of ownership. With more eyes on the parks and people in them, there is an immediate reduction in crime and an increase in play. Only then do we begin structural renovations.
Building Places For Services
To be successful, parks need to meet the needs of the entire neighborhood and Pogo Park strongly believes in supporting parents and other caregivers as well as children. While the play features in Pogo Parks are designed specifically for school-aged children, the parks are also spaces where adults exercise, teens do homework, the jobless can find work and those without enough food can find a meal. Our play areas and parks are designed for multiple uses at different times of the day and week, everything from chess clubs, after school programs and recreation classes to farmers’ markets, bookmobile, free meal distribution and festivals. By creating park spaces designed to provide needed services, we develop the whole child and improve the whole community.
In Richmond, where unemployment is high, one of our strategies is to employ community members to improve their own neighborhoods. The parks and public spaces we help develop are planned, designed, built and managed by community members, many of whom are paid living or prevailing wage for their time as they learn important job skills. Consultants and staff contribute technical expertise only as necessary.
Working With Schools
Schools and teachers work hard to give our children the education they need to succeed. We partner with the elementary schools near our park sites to build on what kids are learning in school by making kids’ out-of-school time richer and healthier. Some children learn best through hands–on experiences and Pogo Park strives to provide varied play opportunities for children to acquire knowledge in a variety of ways.
Long-Term Management Plans
To be successful, public parks need community support that begins prior to the planning stages and continues into a long-term maintenance commitment. During the project development and before our projects are built, Pogo Park works with the City of Richmond and with local residents to develop site maintenance strategies utilizing a combination of paid and volunteer hours. Our goal is for each of our parks to be staffed during all open hours with park managers who are passionate about providing great play opportunities and dedicated to keeping the park clean, safe and inviting.
Cities across the country are finding that they can more effectively build, renovate and maintain parks when they partner with local nonprofit agencies. Like many cities, Richmond is under budget constraints and partnering with Pogo Park provides the City with access to expertise and funding sources unavailable to public agencies, such as individual donations, corporations and private foundations. Pogo Park also partners with national organizations that develop parks and works closely with local organizations within the Richmond community. Being part of a network of affiliated organizations that do complementary work helps Pogo Park to develop innovative solutions for Richmond’s most pressing problems.