Feature Article - August 2015
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Joining Forces

Partnerships Help Parks, Recreation Facilities Improve Effectiveness

By Deborah L. Vence

In another example, San Francisco's Boeddeker Park reopened in December of last year following a $9.3 million renovation. The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, hosted a grand reopening of Boeddeker Park.

Boeddeker Park, which is at the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin district, serves the city neighborhood with the greatest number of families living below the poverty line. Boeddeker has a critical role to play in providing recreational space in the city's densest neighborhood. But, for years, the park's inhospitable design and minimal amenities discouraged visitors and raised safety concerns among both neighbors and law enforcement. The community was committed to making sure the neighborhood got the park it deserves, according to information from The Trust for Public Land website.

So, The Trust for Public Land worked with the community and dozens of generous public and private donors to transform Boeddeker. The new design incorporates ideas generated in community workshops and focus groups—including outdoor fitness equipment, a walking path with accessible ramps, a large lawn, new play equipment and a full-size basketball court. Features such as water-efficient landscaping and recycled materials make the park and clubhouse a model of sustainable design.

The nearly one-acre Boeddeker Park, as stated on the San Francisco Recreation and Park website, is the largest park in the neighborhood, and one of the densest districts in San Francisco, and has limited open space. The park, which opened in 1985, is named after local pastor Father Alfred Boeddeker.

The renovation consists of significant improvements to the park, including a new 4,300-square-foot clubhouse with green building features and greater visibility into the park, play areas for school age children and toddlers, a regulation-size full court high school basketball court, adult fitness area with outdoor exercise equipment, perimeter walking path, stage and performance area, and outdoor plazas for informal gathering and programs such as Tai Chi.

Benepe added that a worthy partner needs to bring value to a partnership, noting another example of a high-end swimming pool and skating rink in Flushing, Queens, in New York, for which a for-profit company was hired to manage the pool.

"We didn't want it to go downhill. I think we kept municipal lifeguards on a contractual basis," he said.

The Trust for Public Land has a program in place that partners with local education departments and takes public school yards and turns them into playgrounds, but they function as a community playground on the weekends and in the summer.

The unique thing is that not only does the program obtain public money from elected officials, the program also garners money from local water departments for storm water and makes them into green school playgrounds, which contributes to public health and provides an environmental role or function, he explained.

Furthermore, Benepe referred to an article that appeared in Landscape Architecture magazine earlier this year, which stated that "Since the mid-1990s," Trust for Public Land "has converted about 185 New York City schoolyards into community parks through various partnerships with different city agencies."

"TPL's current Playgrounds Program, which includes design services and construction management by the local New York City firm SiteWorks Landscape Architecture, converts about six to 10 schoolyards per year into community parks. To date, about 1.1 million New Yorkers are within a 10-minute walk of a TPL schoolyard park. The organization's goal is to make community parks out of hundreds of remaining asphalt schoolyards throughout the city so that eventually all New Yorkers will be able to walk to a park in 10 minutes. The program is in the midst of being expanded to Philadelphia and Bridgeport, Connecticut."

Moreover, "The TPL program takes these under-used urban dead zones and transforms them into neighborhood parks packed with amenities that can include rows of trees, small farms, basketball courts and green-roofed gazebos with benches that serve as outdoor classrooms. As a condition of participating in the program, schools must commit to keeping their new parks open to the general public from dawn until dusk outside school hours and on weekends."