Luskin Summit Illuminates Pathway to Park Equity

A Landmark Opportunity for Park Equity,” the fourth webinar in the 2021 Luskin Summit series, focused on the importance of public parks and other outdoor spaces for the physical, mental and environmental well-being of communities. The Feb. 17 panel was moderated by Jon Christensen, an affiliate faculty member of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. Angela Barranco, undersecretary at the California Natural Resources Agency, explained that the “COVID-19 pandemic has elevated and revealed the importance of access to the outdoors for all.” She noted that 1 in 4 Californians has zero access to parks within walking distance, and 6 in 10 Californians live in park-poor neighborhoods. These inequities can lead to severe health consequences and in some cases could be the difference between life and death, she said. California voters have approved multiple statewide environmental bonds recently, making this a “watershed moment for park access,” said Alfredo Gonzalez, Southern California director of the Resources Legacy Fund. Norma García-Gonzalez BA ’95 MA UP ’99, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, highlighted the important role that the public park system has taken on during the pandemic, including serving as winter shelters and vaccination sites, and providing 40,000 households with food through a partnership with Los Angeles Food Bank. “Investing in parks for Black and brown youth is justice reform,” García-Gonzalez said. “This is a call to action that we must work with local and state leaders to make critical investments to support Black and brown students and their futures.” — Zoe Day