Luciano del Rio, 30, is a community activist who grew up in Richmond, which has had a long history of violent crime. Prior to what Elm Playlot has become today, the area used to be one that parents wouldn’t feel comfortable sending their kids to go play in, he said.

Today, local residents recognize it as a bubble of safety, said Toody Maher, executive director and founder of Pogo Park, a non-profit that maintains Elm Playlot and spearheaded its renovation.

“Everyone knows if you’re going do bad things, do not do it in or around the parks,” she said.

The park has become an important part of the neighborhood and has provided a space for area residents to meet and socialize with one another, Maher said. It also hosts a variety of programming including zumba classes, a chess club, a mobile petting zoo, and free vision screenings for children.

“Now families want to move in the area because there’s a park that they can come in and is within their vicinity,” del Rio said. [continue reading below]

Latino Activists Advocate for Urban Parks – NBC News