Certain parts of LA are called “park poor,” meaning they don’t have much green space. Parks are increasingly important in the era of COVID, when distanced outdoor activities and opportunities to come together are essential. Now a statewide initiative called Outdoors for All is aimed at addressing the issue, and California’s Natural Resources Agency says the state has budgeted $1 billion for it.
It sounds like a lot of money, but according to Tori Kjer, executive director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, the LA County Parks Needs Assessment identified more than $18 billion worth of needs for park upgrades or new parks in LA County alone.
“If you’re thinking of park access on a county-wide scale, about 50% of LA County residents don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of where they live. But if you look at low-income communities of color across the county, that number actually jumps to 70% — so 70% of residents in South LA, in Willowbrook,” she says.
But with all the development and gentrification in LA, it can be tough to find space to create new parks. “There just are not many properties that are available for new parks or gardens in most of South LA. There are smaller lots and we are working on a couple of future projects that will be on residential size lots, but those aren't quite big enough to really build and have the large park that many communities need that have the variety of amenities,” she points out.
Ken Carson is a gardener at Willowbrook Park in Watts, which is adjacent to a senior center, library, and schools. He says the goal is to develop programs that will bring in local residents and teach them gardening skills and the benefits of staying active.