ASLA: Interview with Pogo Park

July 21, 2016

Read an interview with the executive director of Pogo Park in the American Society of Landscape Architects:

In the Iron Triangle in Richmond, California, which is one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in the country, you’ve created an exciting model, which combines community development, child development, play, and parks. What are the essential elements of a Pogo Park?

Any public space can be transformed into a Pogo Park. In essence, a Pogo Park is an amazing place, a magical place for children to play. There are five key elements. First of all, a Pogo Park must be staffed. You need someone there who clean the park, welcome folks as they come in, and make it a safe and welcoming gathering place for the community. . . 

Read more here.

$6.2 Million Grant to Build the Yellow Brick Road


Toody Maher |  Executive Director | | 510-590-1716
Adrian Maher | Communications Director | | 310-922-3080
Chadrick Smalley | Capital Projects Manager | City of Richmond | | 510-412-2067


Richmond’s Yellow Brick Road Project Wins $6.2 Million State Grant

Richmond, CA, October 21, 2015—Richmond secured a $6.2 million Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to build the first leg of the Yellow Brick Road in Richmond’s underserved Iron Triangle neighborhood.

Conceived of by local youth in 2008, the Yellow Brick Road (YBR) is envisioned to be a network of brightly stenciled, yellow bike and walking routes that connect key assets (schools, parks, churches, community centers, BART, Kaiser Hospital) of the Iron Triangle community together.

In a fiercely competitive statewide competition of 617 applications, the Yellow Brick Road proposal was 1 of only 86 projects selected by the CTC for funding. Richmond’s $6.2 million Yellow Brick Road grant was the third largest grant awarded in the State.

What set Richmond’s Yellow Brick Road proposal apart was the level of participation by Iron Triangle residents to create a new transportation vision for their neighborhood. Pogo Park, a Richmond-based nonprofit that works with local residents to transform little-used city parks into vibrant play spaces for children, spearheaded the effort to write Richmond’s winning ATP grant. The city of Richmond and transportation engineers Fehr & Peers helped Pogo Park assemble the key data needed to make the Yellow Brick Road grant a success.

The Yellow Brick Road was conceived by a grass-roots planning effort that involved hundreds of residents working in concert with city planners, community designers, health advocates and neighborhood activists over the past eight years.

The creation of the YBR is an answer to the poor and dangerous street conditions in the one-square-mile Iron Triangle neighborhood, one of the most under-served neighborhoods in California. In comparison with other Bay Area communities, bicyclists and pedestrians in the Iron Triangle have suffered a disproportionate rate of collisions with cars. According to Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWIRTS) data, between 2008-2012 there were 50 incidents of vehicular collisions with cyclists and pedestrians in this neighborhood. Local residents and the Richmond Police Department believe the actual number is significantly higher due to many unreported incidents. Local residents often can only travel safely in the Iron Triangle by car rather than walking or biking due to the dangers of local streets.
Pogo Park, Fehr & Peers, and the city of Richmond worked closely together to complete the State’s highly detailed, 300+-page application for funding for the Yellow Brick Road.

“This will have a tremendously positive impact for thousands of residents by transforming the neighborhood with a more open and inviting environment,” said Mayor Tom Butt who’s been following and supporting the project since its conception.  “This project will connect disparate neighborhoods that have historically felt left behind, with innovative and critically needed transportation improvements building upon the City’s commitment to create safer, healthier communities.”

The Yellow Brick Road was originally conceived by a group of Iron Triangle youth in a 2008 summer program. As a means to stitch the community together and make the streets safe, the youths suggested connecting the key neighborhood hubs through a path of bright yellow bricks that designate safe bike and walking routes through the neighborhood.

“Community residents are experts about their own neighborhoods,” said Toody Maher, Executive Director of Pogo Park. “They know exactly what must be done to solve their community’s problems. The Yellow Brick Road is an example of a brilliant, bottoms-up solution to a very real problem that came directly from a group of local youth. Thank God we have a city government and other partners who listened to and elevated the voice of a group that is often unheard and invisible.”

In 2014, Pogo Park organized a team of 30 Iron Triangle residents to walk every street in the neighborhood and note the dangerous barriers to walking and biking that included: broken sidewalks and missing crosswalks, wide streets that encourage speeding cars, poor lighting, vacant houses, reckless driving near schools, snarling dogs, unsafe dumping areas, and lack of signage.

Using the input from Pogo Park’s team of Iron Triangle residents, Fehr & Peers produced a comprehensive design for the Yellow Brick Road.

The final plan includes a detailed network of cycling and pedestrian pathways with colorful way-finding signs, painted curbs and intersections. Street improvements include narrowing streets to slow cars down and calm traffic – especially near schools.

“We’ve always yearned for safe and secure streets and with the Yellow Brick Road, people will now feel compelled to get outside – to walk and get on their bikes instead of sitting inside their homes or just relying on their cars for transportation,” said Otheree Christian, President of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council. “Physical activity will increase, reducing the risk of obesity, asthma, diabetes and other chronic illnesses prevalent in the Iron Triangle neighborhood. This is a game-changer – a major public health boost for our community.”

Richmond’s Yellow Brick Road will increase walking and bicycling rates in a neighborhood ripe for mobile transformation. The Iron Triangle’s flat, short, and interconnected streets provide a perfect environment for a new network of pedestrian and bike paths that will connect key community assets together for decades to come.

“This success is a result of strong collaboration between the City and Pogo Park,” said Mayor Tom Butt.  “The Yellow Brick Road is a leading example of smart urban planning and will accelerate the positive changes in the Iron Triangle to create a safe, walkable connection between homes, schools and parks including the Richmond Greenway. This multi-million dollar award is a triumph of community-led, creative design and is a direct investment into the community.”

Yellow Brick Road – Living Preview Event

Friday, October 17
1pm – 4pm

Saturday, October 18
10am – 1pm

Elm Playlot (Pogo Park)
720 Elm Avenue
Richmond, CA 94801

call: 510-215-5500

Come and experience the “Living Preview” for yourself: a life-sized, temporary installation to show the proposed changes to the streets around Elm Playlot, a small city park and children’s playground located in the heart of Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.

Funded by a grant from Caltrans, our goal is to design street improvements that will a) slow cars down and b) create a network of child and family-friendly streets that encourage people to walk and ride a bike (instead of using a car) to get to key destinations in the historic Iron Triangle neighborhood.
We encourage you to come to the Living Preview, test a sample route (in 3-D!), and let us know what you think. We want to incorporate your feedback into our final design.

See you there!

The New Elm Playlot Opens for Summer Play

June 17, 2014

The new Elm Playlot opened today for summer play! Located at 720 Elm Avenue in Richmond, we will staff Elm Playlot from 8am-8pm, Monday through Friday. Kids can play freely on our zipline, ball wall, disc swings, and more! Staff will also oversee structured play activities such as dodge ball and treasure hunts, and will provide materials for arts and crafts. Kids up to 18 years old will be served free, healthy lunches from noon to 1, and healthy snacks from 2 to 3.

Click here for highlights from the park’s opening day. Or simply come by the park to see the new Elm in action!

Pogo Park a Winner in the Google Impact Challenge

May 22, 2014

Today, Google announced that after reviewing nearly 1,000 applications for their Bay Area Impact Challenge, they have selected Pogo Park as a top 10 finalist. They recognized the importance of our work: to develop innovative, imaginative play spaces in Richmond’s Iron Triangle, one of California’s toughest neighborhoods.

Google has awarded Pogo Park with $250,000 for finishing in the top 10, which will help us greatly in our efforts to transform Richmond. Thank you Google!

Click here for Google’s promotional video on Pogo Park.

Click here for highlights from our resident team’s Google campaign.

Congressman George Miller Visits Elm Playlot

May 15, 2014

Congressman George Miller stopped by Pogo Park’s Elm Playlot today, which is nearing completion after years of envisioning, planning, and building. He awarded Pogo Park, and Executive Director Toody Maher with Certificates of Congressional Recognition for the profound impact Pogo Park has made on Richmond. Click here for pictures from his visit.

New Fence at Elm Playlot

May 12, 2014

Elm Playlot’s new fence is up! Our staff built it by hand, carving it with a mixture of faces from the neighborhood, waves, and lettering; no two sections are the same. “We wanted to make sure that the fence was alive, and as vibrant as the park and the surrounding community,” said Jose Juan of Pogo Park, the fence’s lead architect. Click here for pictures of the park’s newest addition.

Elm Playlot Taking Shape

April 8, 2014

Construction at Elm Playlot is coming along quickly, with the recent completion of its new community center and Global Village, and installation of its new disc swings, zip line, trike path, and more. Click here for pictures of Elm’s new equipment.

Community residents built the Global Village by hand, with training provided by Pogo Park and Scientific Art Studios. Click here for more action shots of the build process.