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Parents Gather Community to Improve Park

January 8, 2013


We can count on other people and institutions to help us, especially about the safety of our children.

Maria Zecua

A parent with the Greenfield Walking Group

The Greenfield Walking Group is making Stiern Park more “family-friendly.”

Before the group got involved, “it wasn’t safe enough to let (your child) go to the playground while you got exercise,” says Maria Zecua, who joined other parents to take part in the Greenfield Walking Group.

With support from the Kern County Network of Children (KCNC), the group has successfully implemented these changes to make the park better and safer for families.

New lights turned on: KCNC provided leadership classes and asked parents to run their own community meeting. Parents met with the park supervisor about more lighting so they could play soccer at night.

“Two weeks later, (there were) huge floodlights in the soccer area,” says Jennifer Lopez, Healthy Living Outreach Facilitator for Get Moving Kern/KCNC.

Collaboration with city officials: Parents worked with the Recreation and Parks Department to “construct a walking path and the playground,” says Director Dianne Hoover. The water department also fenced off an unsafe area.

Group members met with the police about patrolling more, says Maria Sanchez, a grandmother of three. Parents wrote letters to the mayor and took him on a tour of the park.

$10,000 for a walking path: Parents conducted an assessment about problems in the park and presented it to the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber provided $10,000 for the walking path, media contacts and volunteers to help build the path. The walking group also helped youth find funding for a new playground.

Wide-spread media coverage: The group has been featured on Univisión and National Public Radio, as well as El Popular Newspaper and Channel 23 News, Lopez says. Local radio and television stations sent volunteers to help at the park.

Volunteers pitch in: Parents organized a work day in April to build the walking path. They passed out fliers and recruited parents at the park. Lopez says 100 parents and volunteers helped build the walking path. In May, the walking group held a work day and celebration after the new playground was installed. Youth worked with city staff to pick up trash, replace old trash cans and plant shrubs.

Support to other organizations: “We have given other groups ideas and support,” Sanchez says. Inspired by the walking group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded parent advocacy classes throughout the Central Valley, Lopez says.

Park usage triples: Now “neighbors set up their own volleyball, soccer and aerobics,” Lopez says. “Nighttime usage at the park has tripled. The new problem is that there is not enough space [for] all of the physical activity.”

Parents are also looking for funding to put in a restroom.

“We are not alone,” Zecua says. “We can count on other people and institutions to help us, especially about the safety of our children. Sometimes we don’t know we matter.”

Originally written by Nicole Moreno.