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Parks, kids, & sprawl

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  • Richard Risemberg
    ... -- Richard Risemberg http://www.living-room.org http://www.newcolonist.com Until you stop looking for simple answers, you will not be happy. You will not
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 26, 2004
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      > http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-parks26apr26,1,4095404.story?coll=la-headlines-california
      > L.A. Parks Out of Children's Reach
      > Most youngsters don't live within easy walking distance of recreation sites, a study finds.
      > By Miguel Bustillo
      > Times Staff Writer
      >
      > April 26, 2004
      >
      > Two-thirds of children in Los Angeles do not live within walking distance of a public park, according to a report to be released today by a national land conservation group.
      >
      > The comparative analysis of seven major American cities by the Trust for Public Land found that 66% of Los Angeles children, or more than 716,000 youngsters under 18, did not live within a quarter-mile of a park. Los Angeles County as a whole fared even worse, with only 31% of children living close to a park, the study found.
      >
      > In Boston, by contrast, 78% of children live within a quarter-mile of a park. In New York, 59% do, while in San Diego, only 32% can walk to one — the lowest rate among the cities studied. San Diego County as a whole fared significantly better, with 58% of children living near a park.
      >
      > Park advocates said the findings of the study, titled No Place to Play, indicate that Los Angeles has a shortage of open spaces with profound consequences for the health of children, particularly in the park-poor neighborhoods of the city's central core.
      >
      > "It's a terrible indictment. If you don't have a place to exercise, you aren't going to exercise," said Linda Rosenstock, dean of the UCLA School of Public Health.
      >
      > "In Boston and New York, they built places for children. There was planning. In Los Angeles, we don't have outdoor public spaces; we have sprawl and the car culture, and it just aggravates a very bad trend in American life: less physical activity — which is leading to a wide array of health problems in our children," she added. "The consequences of that for various conditions — from diabetes to obesity and heart disease — is substantial."
      >
      > Jon Kirk Mukri, the recently hired general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, said city officials have known for years that Los Angeles lacks sufficient public playgrounds and gathering places. City leaders are committed to addressing the disparity, he said, but it will take time and money.
      >
      > "We know we have a problem. I think it can be solved, but it is going to take time," said Mukri, who was reared in Pacoima, one of the communities with a shortage of parks. "We have so many people here now. Our population is denser than it has ever been. Quite honestly, our parklands never kept up with demand.
      >
      > "My goal — and I have only been at my job a few months — is to look at the city as a whole and prioritize where we need parks the most," he added. "We have soccer people, horse people — all kinds of groups pushing for their own thing, and we have to work through that."
      >
      > The nonprofit Trust for Public Land arrived at its conclusions by comparing year 2000 U.S. Census data showing where children lived with data from local, state and federal agencies on parks and other open space. It used a quarter-mile radius to measure walking distance because that is the standard used by the National Recreation and Park Assn.
      >
      > Previous studies comparing Los Angeles' parklands to those of other major population centers have shown that the city had more raw acres of park and open space than other big cities, including New York.
      >
      > But urban parks activists have long maintained that such comparisons understate the true lack of open space in Los Angeles because they include vast public holdings in the Santa Monica Mountains — an area far from the dense, park-starved communities closer to downtown. Many areas of the eastern San Fernando Valley also contain concentrated populations of children but few parks, activists complain.
      >
      > "It's an ironic fact of life in Los Angeles: Parks are located where children aren't," said Larry Kaplan, director of the Trust for Public Land's Los Angeles office. "The great need in Los Angeles is for the small, neighborhood parks," he added.
      >
      > Two years ago, state voters approved Proposition 40, a $2.6-billion bond measure to finance parks and environmental programs. But that money is rapidly being spent, and public and private leaders in Los Angeles need to become more aggressive in securing a share before it dries up, the report concluded.
      >
      > The Trust for Public Land, which helped broker deals to acquire some of the Ballona Wetlands near Marina del Rey, hopes to become an active player in smaller park projects throughout the Los Angeles area. But it argues that to do so, Southern California philanthropists must do much more to help fund park projects.
      >
      > In the southeast Los Angeles County city of Maywood, the trust has teamed up with city officials to acquire six industrial lots along the Los Angeles River. It is cleaning up contamination at the site, which will be converted to a seven-acre park with playfields, picnic benches and open space next to the riverfront. The site will eventually be transferred to the city.
      >
      > Maywood, which has 30,000 residents within its 1.14-square-mile area, is the densest city in California. It has only two small parks.
      >
      > Numerous other nonprofit organizations are trying to add urban parks to the Los Angeles region's checkerboard of concrete and asphalt. But converting old industrial sites and gas stations — many of which are polluted — to green spaces is exceedingly costly and time-consuming, they say.
      >
      > The community group Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles has been working for five years to convert an abandoned dumping ground minutes from downtown Los Angeles, at Slauson Avenue and Main Street, into playfields, a youth center and a small park.
      >
      > "That is a long time in a kid's life," said Concerned Citizens activist Mark A. Williams, who argued that Los Angeles will see progress in the fight for more park space only when more residents expect it from their politicians. Construction on the youth center is finally scheduled to begin this summer.
      >
      > "I don't think Los Angeles was designed with community in mind," Williams said. "The tendency has always been to sprawl outward to the suburbs, without much thought about the quality of life in the communities that were left behind, where the immigrants later moved in.
      >
      > "Elected officials can do more, but the impetus has to come from the community," Williams added. "The people of this city have to demand that it be made more livable."

      --
      Richard Risemberg
      http://www.living-room.org
      http://www.newcolonist.com

      "Until you stop looking for simple answers, you will not be happy. You
      will not even be human."

      RR
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