Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and Saint Paul Parks Conservancy Join KABOOM! in National Initiative to End Playspace Inequity
KABOOM! announced Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and Saint Paul Parks Conservancy as the latest partner in the national nonprofit’s 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity, the five-year plan to achieve playspace equity in 25 priority places, accelerating progress toward achieving their mission across the country.
Through the initiative, KABOOM!, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, and the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy will lead an ambitious plan to invest $7.5 million through a collaborative joint fundraising effort with regional corporate, foundation, and individual donors to address gaps in access to quality places to play in communities that disproportionately lack resources, and to help achieve the City’s goal to make Saint Paul a city that works for all.
“Strong nonprofit partnerships are vital to the success and sustainability of our parks and recreation system,” said Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Director Andy Rodriguez. “We are excited to work with KABOOM! and the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy to make our playspaces safer, more equitable, and accessible for all.”
Today’s announcement builds upon the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan which is Saint Paul’s “blueprint” for guiding development in the city over the next 20 years. Saint Paul Parks and Recreation is recognized by the Trust for Public Land™ ParkScore® as the #2 City Park System in the United States in 2023. This marks the 9th consecutive year of being one of the country’s top 3 urban park systems. The ParkScore index measures park systems in five categories: equity, access, acreage, investment, and amenities. Despite its high ranking, equity gaps exist in areas of the Midway/Frogtown, the North End, the East Side, and the West Side. Neighborhoods of color have 30% less park space and disproportionately fewer playspaces than predominantly white neighborhoods. The average replacement age of Saint Paul play areas is over 30 years, while the average useful lifespan of a play area is 12-15 years.
“Our parks and play areas offer safe, active, and engaging spaces for our entire community,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “This partnership will expand opportunities for children and families in our city and ensure everyone is able to play, learn, grow, and thrive.”
The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy partners with the community to make Saint Paul parks better – to grow them, improve the equipment and facilities, and expand programs. Having already raised $3 million for park improvements over the last decade, the Conservancy is poised to invest $1 million in neighborhood parks in the next twelve months alone.
“Creating opportunities for equitable access to play has become an increasing part of our work since 2014 when we worked with community to build the nation’s first public courts for Sepak Takraw – a kick volleyball sport that is a vital part of community life among Saint Paulites of Hmong, Karen, and Lao descent,” said Michael-jon Pease, Saint Paul Parks Conservancy Executive Director. “The fact that the first local gift for this new initiative to end playspace inequity was $5,000 from Cub Scout Pack 13 signals how important it is to Saint Paul youth.”
As the champion of Saint Paul’s award-winning park system, the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy carries out Saint Paul’s vision of equitable access to active lifestyles, vibrant places, and a vital environment. Together with KABOOM!, these committed partners will help drive resources for quality playspaces to the kids and communities that are too often denied opportunities to thrive.
Saint Paul is the fifth city announced as an official partner in the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity. The partnership kicks off with the creation of a new playspace at Dunning Recreation Center, and additional priority locations will be announced in the coming months. Neighborhood youth are invited to join in the community planning process by creating drawings of their dream playgrounds at the upcoming Design Day in August. Their drawings will be used for inspiration for the new playground, with elements from those drawings to be incorporated into design options for the playground. The community will vote on the final playground design that will be built in October.
“Having our first playground project at Dunning Park, the Mayor’s childhood park and beloved place to play, underscores the important connection between childhood playspaces and who kids will eventually become,” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM. “Places to play form foundational experiences for kids, and we want to make sure these places are available everywhere for our future leaders. Even in cities like St. Paul where we celebrate optimal scores for parks in communities, data guides our work to ensure we uncover and address the inequity that exists in access to quality playspaces. Together with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and Saint Paul Conservancy, we realize there is more work to do, especially in communities of color, and we are committed to ensuring every neighborhood in the city is designed for every kid to have a happy and healthy childhood.”
Acknowledging we need strong partnerships to solve playspace inequity at scale, KABOOM! is building a coalition of 25 municipal agencies (school districts, parks and recreation departments, housing systems, etc.) and networks of nonprofit partners who are committed to addressing the urgent needs of kids. Visit kaboom.org to learn more about the 25 in 5 Initiative and potential municipal partners are invited to complete the Interest Survey to start the process. Playspace inequity is an issue with deep roots, but it is solvable. Together, we can work to end playspace inequity for good.