ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
The middle and high school youth in the summer program, Leadership for Life, walked to each of the three neighborhood parks. Keana Walker, youth program specialist, knew they would resist, but once she got them out to the park and into the conversation, they got interested.
“The older kids in the summer camp became more engaged that we imagined. We weren’t sure if they would want to do this, but once they started thinking about the parks and what they could be, they got creative, could see the challenges, and really went after it” Keana said.
“The kids came up with a lot of amazing ideas. Like at Ben Miller Park where there is nothing to do, just a big open field, they imagined a makeshift water slide and a back-to-school celebration with music, raffle tickets for school supplies, and a cookout,” Keana said.
Outcome: Youth teams made official presentations representing each of the three parks to the local and state representatives from Trust for Public Land. This involved teamwork, public speaking and presentation skills, using their voice in the community, and learning about park management. Their work created a personal connection to their neighborhood parks, allowing them to look at parks from a different perspective and with big dreams.
View the Ben Miller Park presentation HERE.
View the Milliken Park presentation HERE.
View the Southside Community Park presentation HERE.
We printed neighborhood maps. Making our church the “trailhead” we paired up a younger child with an older youth in the afterschool program and they worked together to map the path to each of our three neighborhood parks.
“The idea was to be creative about wayfinding and there were multiple ways to do that. It started with mapping, then going to the park to play, and then drawings of My Perfect Park and then decorating arrows that would point people to the parks,” Keana said.
Kids painted arrows with the name of each park as part of a group project. Eventually the three big arrows will be mounted on a signpost to point to the parks from the church yard.
All that creativity inspired the development of an official wayfinding plan with primary colors and shapes for each park. A presentation was prepared to show how these symbols could be used to mark the path to the park, with painted stripes on the sidewalk and/or signs along the way.
View the Wayfinding presentation HERE.
Posters at area businesses and sidewalk signs along the way could provide further encouragement with information about the number of steps to each park. Ultimately the goal is to improve access and activities in the parks.
“The kids made the difference. Once the kids were talking about the parks then the adults were too, and that led to the official wayfinding plan,” Keana said.
Outcomes: Creative wayfinding activities reinforced map reading and paying attention to key landmarks, street crossings and timing. Kids were empowered to show parents the way to the park. Seeing their ideas inspire an actual plan for visual wayfinding elements is the icing on the cake and hopefully will be used in whole or in part in the neighborhood beautification effort.
MY PERFECT PARK
After visiting neighborhood parks and city parks, the children were asked to draw “a great park” from their perspective. Their hopes and dreams have led to future ideas and advocacy efforts for the Alton Park project and helped create a special connection to the parks for each of the children.
They could see that all parks have their own personality. Some are full of things to do and others you must take your own fun.
“Kids are tuned in to electronics, cellphones and TV. If you go outside into the parks to play you will find a way to have fun,” Keana Walker said. “Getting comfortable in green spaces close to home will lead to exploration of green spaces farther away.”
Keana has great memories of hiking adventures and a chance to be out in nature with beautiful scenery. She advises starting small, at the local park, so children can enjoy playing outside and learn that nature can be fun. For Alton Park, this led to other activities like wayfinding and beautification plans for improving the local parks that got everyone involved and invested in outdoor spaces.
Outcome: The individual drawings were used to plan additional activities, plus it involved creative expression through art, acknowledgement that there are many ways to enjoy a park and increased comfort with exploring new greenspaces.
“Now these kids go to the parks more and they are excited to go. When they see other parks, they want to go explore those parks,” Keana said. “Progress is when they are asking their parents to take them to the park instead of the mall.”
One of the most successful outcomes of the Put the Park Back in Alton Park project has been the addition of trees to the Southside Chattanooga Park.
The desire for more trees started with the middle and high school youth during the summer program in the asset mapping activities. Then the afterschool program carried the idea forward with the help of Trust for Public Land and the City of Chattanooga.
“One of our imagination activities was to figure out where we would plant trees in the Southside Community Park. So, we took big cardboard trees out to the park and the kids placed them in key spots,” said Raquetta Dotley. “And on Arbor Day the City planted a bunch of trees!”
The City had to mark the spots desired by the kids and check the irrigation lines for the trees already planted along the edges of the park to decide the final place for each. The activity was coordinated by our local Trust For Public Land office.
Outcomes: By visualizing the use of future space in the park we were inspired to develop good working relationships with local government and/or nonprofits interested in greenspaces. We let the children play a role in asking for park improvements. They became empowered to know their elected officials and use their voice to improve parks.
GAMES IN THE PARK
We included traditional ball games plus volleyball, and we brought board games and card games for everyone to play at the picnic tables, which was great for the older adults.
The younger generations enjoyed:
“Just go and let them play. At first, they might not want to be there. Adults must join in. Shoot baskets. Toss the ball. Don’t tell them, do it with them,” Keana Walker said. “My middle school girls did not want to have to put their phones away and ‘play’ outside. They hated it for 15 minutes. When the other kids drew them into some outdoor games, they quit moping and got involved.”
Outcomes: Exercise, entertaining themselves without electronics, making the most of park amenities and learning to love being outdoors. Consider a way to discover the availability of outdoor games from families in your neighborhood or congregation. Have everyone bring something to try on “game day” in the park. Stage competitions with door prizes to inspire participation. Take lots of pictures!
After seeing the murals at Milliken Park, the kids wanted something colorful at Southside Chattanooga Park.
“Because it’s a City park they were our first contact,” Raquetta said. “We plan to ask for help from the public art committee and a local public art organization for an artist to develop a mural, and funding to make it happen.”
The restrooms at the pavilion are the main exterior wall for a possible backdrop for a community mural. After completing the individual drawings for My Perfect Park, the children worked as a group to paint their designs on a large canvas. Hopefully these materials will be used to create a colorful design for the mural someday.
Outcomes: Merging art with outdoor spaces can be used to express the personality of our parks. It would become a lasting tribute to the children’s creativity during the Put the Park Back in Alton Park program. Even temporary art, like sidewalk chalk, a favorite of the kids, is a great way to start. Seeing how art is displayed in other city parks was a big inspiration.
WALK TO A PARK DAY
Every year the Trust for Public Land promotes their national program to celebrate parks that are within ten minutes of walking distance. On October 10th, we had our event from 4pm to 6pm at the Southside Chattanooga Park. Advertised through the church and neighborhood association, this event was part of the 10-minute walk campaign.
“It was so easy! We brought snacks and juice and water along with some of the games we had from the last two events,” Raquetta said. “Then I just sat back and watched everyone have fun.”
Chattanooga’s Mayor Andy Berke made a pledge to the national movement to have a park within a 10-minute walk of every city resident, placing Chattanooga on the map with Trust for Public Land.
Chattanooga's Campaign Commitment:
By Summer 2020, Chattanooga will develop a park master plan that establishes and analyzes baseline metrics for 10-minute walk park access and park quality, ensuring that data and analysis includes under-represented populations and prioritizes improved streets, sidewalks, trails, and other infrastructure to ensure safe connections to parks and to address barriers to access and use.
Outcomes: The motivation for this national event is to enjoy local parks and advocate for more parks. We were happy to participate in some small way. The Trust for Public Land and the City of Chattanooga partnership is the reason for Put The Park Back in Alton Park. We discovered how to leverage existing relationships.
CHURCH IN THE PARK
Westside Missionary Baptist Church demonstrated its support of the Net Resource Foundation and the Put The Park Back in Alton Park project by holding a Sunday morning church service at the South Chattanooga Park. After the service there was lunch with games and door prizes.
“We had been wanting to do this, to have church outside,” Raquetta said. “Everybody got geared up. We had 40 volunteers!”
Outcomes – More than 150 people came in spite of the heat. It had a positive influence on the growth of the church congregation and there is a commitment to have church outside in 2020. People who were not necessarily church members joined in because it was outside and more welcoming, which might have been easier than coming to the church that first time.
STRUT THE PARK
A community-wide event was coordinated to bring adults and children to all three neighborhood parks at the same time to enjoy the parks and share food and water, lawn games and board games and gift basket door prizes
Each park was different. One had playground equipment, another had a pavilion with picnic tables and a sidewalk around an open lawn space, and the third was a shaded grassy area with a few tables and an old swing set (no longer with swings). And everyone figured out how to have fun.
An important component was the youth in the Net Resource Foundation program who promoted the multiple neighborhood event with direct community outreach.
“The kids were trained in appropriate canvassing techniques and spent two days going door to door with flyers for the event,” Keana Walker said. “They learned to stand on the porch and tell people about Net Resource Foundation and the Bring the Park Back to Alton Park program. Once the kids were talking about the parks then the adults were too.”
“We knew some people had never been to the parks before. It was a chance to be outside on a pretty day getting to know the neighbors,” said Raquetta Dotley. “The event happened simultaneously for two hours in all three locations. At the end of the event we all ended up at Southside Community Park listening to music and watching the kids play. Sidewalk chalk is definitely a favorite!”
Outcomes – People were introduced to their nearby parks and the enjoyment of our neighborhood environment. The youth learned how to interact with neighbors to promote the event, and there was much greater awareness of the Bring the Park Back to Alton Park program.
The South Chattanooga Walking Challenge was postponed due to the pandemic in Spring 2020.
The plan is to purchase t-shirts with the slogan: Spring into Action and hold a 3-day walking challenge, twice a day in each park on successive days. We will mark the number of times around each park that is equal to a mile. A walking captain will be there to walk with them. Door prizes, healthy snacks and water will be provided along with the t-shirt to all participants.