Bill Moyers featured a segment on Santa Ana, California in his PBS show this past week, featuring the efforts of local citizens and the group Latino Health Access to provide more parks.
The city is emblematic of how parks are important to tightly packed communities craving for more space for their kids to play. Santa Ana is the 8th most densely populated place in the United States. The 340,000-person city has approximately one acre of parkland per 1,120 residents compared with other large California cities, which have 7.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. In addition, most of the city is not within walking distance of a park (see map at right). Over seventy five percent of Santa Ana’s population is Latino; almost twenty percent live below the poverty line, and at thirty four percent, Santa Ana has the highest rate of overweight children in the State.
The story highlights the efforts of Latino Health Access, a group dedicated to improving the public health of Santa Ana’s residents by pushing for more parks. Aside from the green space deficit, the non-profit has noted that many apartment dwellers are prohibited from using their common spaces for recreation and schoolyards are closed during non-school hours, something preventing the community from fully utilizing this public land. In addition, the city is spotted with vacant lots that public officials have set aside for building development. This compelled residents to lobby for a new park on some undeveloped land — and they succeeded after organizing their community around this need. Groundbreaking is set to occur in November. The 15-minute video segment (viewable at the PBS website), which builds on the program’s theme of community organizing contains an interview with America Bracho, director of Latino Health Access, who indicated:
I have to confess, when I see vacant lots […] I see injustice. If we are invisible to the people that allocate money, if we are invisible to the people that do planning, if we are invisible to the people that have the resources, there is something wrong with that picture. If you can make the decision, as a political representative, or as the leader of an institution, you can make the decision of putting a park in a place and liquor stores in another place and you put the liquor stores in my neighborhood, and the parks in the other neighborhood, there is something very wrong with that.