Serving Communities and Advancing Equity Through Parks

Parks are not just for fun and games. They are also centers of community, offering shelter, food, and employment for the most vulnerable.

1 minute read

September 19, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By clementkhlau

Playground with yellow slides in Rimgrove Park, Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation / Rimgrove Park, Los Angeles County

Parks are sometimes dismissed as “nice to haves” or as being just about “fun and games.” This perception is inaccurate because it essentially disregards the growing body of research that shows the importance of parks and the wide range of benefits they offer, especially during the pandemic.

In this story, writer Nate Berg profiles Norma Edith García-Gonzales, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), who has transformed county parks into “vehicles for equity.” During the pandemic, county parks have hosted coronavirus testing sites and later vaccination centers, and provided food and shelter to vulnerable populations.

Under García-Gonzales's leadership, the department has also prioritized high-need youth, extending service hours and eliminating fees for after-school recreation leagues while training staff to address substance abuse, suicide risk, and gang activity. DPR has even created jobs for many teens, with 700 youths hired for positions in recreation programs.  

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