Transforming Graffiti-Ridden Parks Into High-Quality Playspaces – VIDEO

Toody Maher is a woman with a dream. An artist and entrepreneur from Richmond, California, she looked around her neighborhood four years ago and decided that things had to change. Specifically, she saw a neglected, graffiti-ridden park in her neighborhood, an area that had become a dumping ground for trash, and got mad.

Making A Difference

Maher determined that she would make a difference, not by organizing just one clean-up day, nor even to pretty up the park and add some new play structures. No, Maher decided that the whole neighborhood had to be refurbished. She hired local parents and teens and recruited hundreds of volunteers who researched, lobbied and held an amazing 163 community meetings to come up with the right approach. Eventually she convinced the city of Richmond to fix up the 20 foreclosed homes that were sitting empty around the park and design a plan for a playground model.

$2 Million Grant From The State Of California

Not only that, she was able to secure a $2 million grant from the state of California to finance her work.
Maher formed a nonprofit organization, Pogo Park, whose mission is to transform lives by transforming public spaces. At the same time, she is transforming children’s lives.

Pogo Park – Helping Children Reach Their Potential

Here’s how she describes her journey on her website,
“Over the next few months, I did nothing else but eat, sleep, and research parks and playgrounds. What I discovered immediately was the growing body of research pointing to the critical and essential role of play in child development. Play is how children learn. Play is the “mother’s breast milk” of activities––the most potent way for children to develop the cognitive, linguistic, social, imaginative, and physical skills they must acquire to reach their potential”

Dreams Coming True This Fall

This fall, her dream will come true as the first project takes shape: recreating Elm Playlot, a small Richmond park described on the Pogo Park website as “a small, little-used, city park that lies in the middle of Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood – a once-proud, inner-city neighborhood that now suffers from deep poverty, violent crime, widespread blight, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.”

Congratulations to Toody Maher!

You can watch a video about this project here:

Photo Credit: Listener42 via Creative Commons

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Randi L.
Randi Levin6 years ago

Well done, but it's only 1 of 1000's. The GOV does not have enough money to clean them all with soap water and paint.

Maybe it's up to the people of the neighborhood to stand up and do it instead of relying on the GOV for funds and donations. Neighborhoods need to start defending their own, rather than being lazy while depending on someone else to do it for them!!!!!!!

Kaitlin Carney
Kaitlin Carney6 years ago

Yes, children need a space to play, but teens also needs space for safe activities as well. When I was 13 the local YMCA closed their teen center, leaving a void in for our middle and high school of any safe space for spending time with friends, playing pool and other games and being able to use their facilities. After that closed, everyone started spending time in local parks and playgrounds, where teens aren't exactly welcome, but are tolerated most of the time. We did get kicked out of parks as well, for 'loitering' and then there was no where to go but alley ways or the river. Two places where there is too much crime.
Being pushed farther and farther from safe inclusive areas definitely helps push many teens into drug use just because there isn't any where else to go and there's never anything to do. Get teens involved or create more spaces such as our local libraries teen section, which includes plenty of space for groups to hang out and computers reserved for under 18 year-olds. Of course not every teen can utilize this one resource, we need more spaces like it!

Barbara Brown
Barbara Brown6 years ago

Nice play ground and equipment. But I don't think it's worth 2 million bux. If this non-profit program is just that, then why didn't they get their community more involved with volunteers? There are people out there that could have made the play equipment with their own hands. This lady is an artist and I'm sure she could have called all her artist friends and family to get the word out that this is what she was planning for this community.

jasna gonda
jasna gonda6 years ago

The model looks nice, only I think that kind of parks are fun for a while but they are too "finished" and do not induce children to be inventive and make something by themselves. A safe outdoor place is important, but the imagination has to have room, otherwise it gets lazy, like in front of a TV.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

When I grew up, there were no playgrounds. We lived outdoors and used our imaginations. Of course I did not live in a city. I lived in a town where there was open land in the area, with forests and fields near by. Unfortunately that is now gone. Lost under the largest shopping mall in a three state area.

Carol B.
Carol Burk6 years ago

This looks like a really good playground! I hope it gets lots of attention and the idea will spread to many other cities. Great work! The children are lucky to have you on their side.

Tami Kennedy
Tami Kennedy6 years ago

Well done Toody!!!

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare6 years ago

Its kool that kids are given a place to play, but-and this might sound crazy-why get rid of the graffiti? Unless its absolutely offensive, I think it should stay as it is so kids will learn to appreciate different kinds of arts.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks for the story Judy! Projects like this are of the utmost importance since kids need fun, safe outdoor places to play. Good job!