The children and families in the cities of Richmond and Antioch will get the parks of their dreams. Through grassroots resident leadership and city/community partnerships, Contra Costa County received over $15 million in State Park grant funds to renovate or create local parks in underserved communities.
The City of Richmond was awarded $12.7 million in grant funds for two projects ($8.5 million for the Harbour-8 Park Expansion and $4.2 million for the Boorman Park Revitalization) and the City of Antioch was awarded nearly $3 million for the Contra Loma Estates Park Project. There were 478 applications received and the Statewide Park Program (SPP), designed to create new parks and recreation opportunities in critically underserved communities across California, selected 62 applications statewide with three park locations in Contra Costa County.
The parent advocacy groups—West County Regional Group and East County Regional Group, both sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa—served as the community partner for two of the three projects. The regional groups led participatory community park needs assessments that resulted in the identification of priority parks (Boorman Park and Contra Loma Estates Park) in the highest need of attention. In partnership with First 5 Contra Costa, Healthy & Active Before 5, the City of Richmond, and the City of Antioch, resident leaders organized a series of in-depth community workshops to create the future vision and design of both parks. The funding will make the community’s dream for their local parks a reality.
The total funding approved for grants throughout the State was $254.9 million, with $36 million awarded to the Bay Area. With SPP embracing meaningful engagement with local residents where park designs represent each community’s unique recreation needs and creativity, the grant applications from Contra Costa County represented parent leadership, an innovative model, and a commitment to a community-driven process.
“Parks are important for our children to grow up healthy. Just because we live in a low-income area, does not mean our children should have less. Our kids and communities deserve quality parks to play in and be active”, said Leydi Maldonado, Chair of the parent advocacy group, West County Regional Group. Similarly, residents mobilized by the East County Regional Group have worked with the city of Antioch for years to bring needed investments to Contra Loma Estates Park. Residents’ support and advocacy led the City of Antioch to make unprecedented improvements and the partnership played an instrumental role in receiving the grant award.
“This investment will shape childhoods for generations to come. We are thrilled that Richmond and Antioch children will have the innovative, fun, and safe places to play outdoors that they deserve. These park grants represent what we can accomplish together when we partner with residents and bring multiple organizations together to transform neighborhoods”, said Rhea Elina Laughlin with First 5 Contra Costa. Public parks are essential spaces for promoting community health, and in particular, physical activity, outdoor play, and mental well-being among families with young children. It is well established that early childhood is a critical time in the life course for promoting health and preventing chronic disease. With improved access to quality parks in their own neighborhoods, the youngest children of Contra Costa County are more likely to benefit from opportunities for a healthy start to their lives.
“Promoting and advocating for local policies that increase access to safe and healthy open spaces for children and families to play, connect, and be active is integral to First 5 Contra Costa’s mission to promote optimal development for all children”, said Ruth Fernandez, Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa.
Regional Groups are parent advocacy groups of residents working to make communities healthier, safer, and more equitable for young children and families. Three groups exist in Contra Costa County and work in partnership with the First 5 Contra Costa Community Engagement and Advocacy Program: East County Regional Group (ECRG), West County Regional Group (WCRG), and Central County Regional Group (CCRG).
First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on children during their first five years—the most important time in children’s development.