Once-in-a-Generation: A Chance to Influence Park Priorities and Funding
More than 50 percent of LA County residents live more than ½ mile from a park. The County needed additional funding to refurbish and expand its parks, recreational facilities and open space—and ensure more equitable distribution throughout the County. That meant a ballot measure. To pass the measure, the County needed to develop an expenditure plan that reflected the priorities of each individual community. And for that, it needed to engage the hundreds of stakeholders that could then engage the entire County in the largest Park Needs Assessment ever conducted.
First, the County was divided into 200 study areas, with individual meetings in each area. Working with the Prevention Institute, we developed “heat maps” (showing the confluence of lack of parks, low incomes and high rates of obesity/poor health conditions) and zeroed in on 15 extremely high priority areas for extra community attention. A County-funded stipend program helped community nonprofits boost their ability to reach residents in areas that are traditionally underrepresented in community planning. Outreach available in six languages included fact sheets, (PDF and html), banners, doorhangers, presentations, webinars and press releases. We also conducted a social media campaign that reached 1 million individual users, intensifying the campaign in priority areas. Attendance at the meetings ranged up to 200, and that in itself generated additional publicity and community input.
The Needs Assessment supported a needs-based funding allocation, considering parks as a key infrastructure for quality of life, and emphasizing both community needs and deferred maintenance.
The communications and outreach put parks front and center, conveying an urgent need for funding. And the goodwill built up with high-profile nonprofits and the community during the needs assessment transferred directly to the park ballot measure, which passed handily.