Safe Routes to Parks: Youth Leaders, Tactical Urbanism, and Red Tape
Join Greenfield Walking Group, California Walks, and Safe Routes Partnership on Saturday, June 22, for their P.A.S.S. Color Run event!
For the past ten years, I have been a youth volunteer for Greenfield Walking Group, a non-profit organization located in Bakersfield, California. During those years, we partnered with California Walks and accomplished a notable amount of collaborative projects together, and recently we scored a big achievement: We received a $12,500 grant from The Safe Routes Partnership.
With these funds, we plan to allocate them as evenly as we can towards low-income parks in Greenfield to increase access with complete streets and park amenities. We believe that with minor changes we can keep everyone in our community safe and improve local infrastructure. We also want our community to experience and get a little taste of what these improvements could look like beforehand, so we are hosting a special community event at one of our parks of focus, Stiern Park. Many of the Greenfield Walking Group members convened to share their ideas for a community event and all agreed that Steirn Park would be the best choice.
With this objective in mind, our group formulated a variety of ideas regarding activities and street designs for the temporary display. Something we wanted to focus on for this event was a provisional art crosswalk to fit with the theme of safe routes to schools and parks, as the current crosswalk in front of Stiern Park also leads to a preschool and Palla Elementary School.
We thought of different designs for the crosswalk, such as Aztec illustrations and a rainbow design. One of my fellow youth leaders had spare tires they no longer needed, so we decided that we should paint those tires and use them as a barrier for a temporary colorful protected bike lane. Bike Bakersfield, a partner organization, agreed to host a bike rodeo where children can participate in educational bike exercises. Other activities we planned to hold include face painting, chalk art, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Although we had these ideas nearly set, we quickly found that some were going to be a tough sell to the city.
To process our event, we had to call City Hall to get the proper permissions and permits in order to execute the activities that we plan to host. It was a challenge trying to get the city to approve this event. In case the approval would not go through, we prepared a plan B to secure Rexland Acres Park instead.
Vice-Mayor Chris Parlier gave us an opportunity to meet and share more about the grant and how we would like to use the funds. He was glad to hear about our community efforts and advised the Greenfield Walking Group to attend a public City Council hearing that would take place two days after and speak about our event in hopes of increasing support from other Councilmembers and City Staff. Taking his advice, a few youth members and I were present at the hearing to deliver a short speech on our planned activities and temporary crosswalk. The event date was soon approaching, and we were successful in getting our request confirmed.
Soon after turning in the necessary papers, we discovered that a total of three different permits were required to alter the bike lane, rent the park, and to have guest speakers with audio/visual equipment. All of the permits also came with FEES! On top of that, the city required us to contract an insured city-affiliated portable bathroom company, and we had some trouble trying to get in contact with them.
Although we ran into a few dilemmas, we were able to push nearly everything through. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure an art crosswalk display and had to replace it with a high visibility crosswalk. We were grateful that we were given permission to continue with our original bike lane idea. The approval for this event will ultimately benefit the community in the long run and build awareness of the types of improvements that can be done in our neighborhood. This process with the city was a real learning experience for me, and I did not anticipate how long the paperwork procedures were going to take. I once believed that acquiring a permit for hosting events at city parks would be quite simple, and I certainly did not expect a permit for speakers. Our group agreed that more communication and clarification with officials could have made this process smoother, and we hope that park event approvals can be made easier in the future this way.