Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Innovation Labs: Opportunities to Share Ideas and Solutions

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Innovation Labs: Opportunities to Share Ideas and Solutions

Article excerpt

Sad. Eye opening. Humbling. These are just a few of the words that came to my mind during NRPA's recent Innovation Lab in Los Angeles. More than 30 park and recreation professionals from around the country gathered in the city to discuss what role we play in helping the homeless population.

The first afternoon, we toured a few Los Angeles parks, and our first stop was Gladys Park, located in the heart of Skid Row. As we rode the buses through the 54-block area of Skid Row to the park, seeing the sidewalks filled with tents, makeshift shelters and people on blankets was like nothing I had ever seen. And, the scene was repeated block after block after block.

When we arrived at Gladys Park, there was not a strong police presence to protect us, just a few Recreation and Parks Department employees. We slowly made our way off the bus and inside the fenced-in park, which was in great shape. It offered picnic tables, a basketball court, even exercise stations.

We listened to a few of the residents speak, and one told us of the many ways this park and the LA Recreation and Parks Department has helped the residents of Skid Row. The residents actually run their own 3-on-3 basketball league at the park and AA meetings seven days a week inside the park. And, people have donated books and children's toys, which they store inside the park to welcome families.

Gladys Park still closes at night, but it was amazing to see how much of a difference this park has made for some of these Skid Row residents. …

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