Tacoma sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and is Washington’s third largest city. It also has lots of great parks, but not everyone has equal access.
More than 65,000 people in Tacoma do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. This the largest park access gap of any of Washington’s major cities. Tacoma also has one of the state’s lowest life expectancies and higher rates of obesity, asthma, and heart disease.
School district properties could be a great new way to improve local access to parks and health rates.
We’re working with MetroParks Tacoma and the Tacoma School District to renovate six existing schoolyards for public use by 2023.
Most schoolyards are not open to the public or are not safe places to play. Many look more like parking lots—no trees, no shade, no grass to play on, dangerously hot in the summer or flooding when it rains.
Sharing schoolyards with neighborhoods outside school hours means 88% of Tacoma’s residents will have a great park to enjoy within a 10-minute walk of their home. This is the first step toward connecting more than 40,000 residents to new local green spaces. Remaining open after hours will help entire communities thrive. A well-designed schoolyard offers new exercise opportunities to both kids and adults. It also increases interactions and connections between the school and local residents.
Parks are not just attractive amenities. Designing outdoor spaces that address health needs, reduce urban flooding, and reflect local culture and aspirations will ensure the spaces are well used and well loved.