The “2019 Innovation in Social Equity Award” from the National Recreation and Parks Association is awarded to one Parks and Recreation agency in the entire country, and this year, the City of Santa Clarita took the award for their Jakes Way Neighborhood Program in Canyon Country. The award recognizes an agency for leading an innovative project that improves access to local parks and recreation for everyone in the community, no matter the color of their skin, age, income level or ability.
The Jakes Way Neighborhood Program began in 2013 after the area was annexed into the city. With approval from the property manager, city staff from the Community Services team converted a vacant apartment in the Park Sierra Apartment Complex into a mini-community center to serve residents with limited access to parks and facilities due to transportation, language, financial and cultural barriers.
City staff and neighborhood committee members work alongside volunteers, school representatives and non-profit staff to create ongoing recreational and educational opportunities, including an after-school program, summer camp, English classes, workshops, family events and more. Additional supportive services are weaved into recreation by bringing in local school staff, sheriff’s deputies, health nurses and other service providers.
“The multipronged approach the program uses creates a safe and encouraging environment that makes children more likely to participate in recreation activities and avoid negative pressures. In the end, the biggest benefit is, it enhances the overall quality of life for families in the neighborhood,” said Mayor Marsha McLean.
In fact, part one crime and graffiti are down in the immediate area this year by 25 percent and 20 percent respectively, compared to 2018. The positive community response to this program continues, as 45-60 children are currently participating in the drop-in summer program held in the playground area of the apartment complex Monday through Friday through mid-August.
“We are extremely proud of this program and so happy that it is receiving the attention and accolades it deserves. We hope it serves as a great example and encourages other agencies to implement similar programs,” said Mayor McLean.
The City of Santa Clarita will be recognized at the 2019 National Recreation and Park Association conference in Baltimore, Maryland on September 25.
For more information about the National Recreation and Parks Association award or the Jakes Way Neighborhood Program, contact Janine Prado, Director of Recreation and Community Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.