As violence against youth makes headlines in Greater Miami, local communities continue pushing solutions that create safe spaces for the more than a half million young people living here.
Studies connecting parks to reduced crime rates have led major metro areas across the country, including Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI, and Austin, TX, to use green spaces as an opportunity for creating safe, community gathering places. Miami-based group Vecinos de Riverside Park wants to do the same in their Little Havana neighborhood by engaging residents to create a series of water activities for the park.
“More than 13,000 youth and children live within one mile of Riverside Park. The No. 1 reason families say they don’t go to the park is because they don’t feel safe,” said Gus Barreiro, public policy and community engagement liaison for The Children’s Trust and a member of Vecinos. “Bringing positive activity to the park pushes out the negative, ultimately creating a safe space for kids, families and seniors to enjoy.
The Riverside Park project is just one of 19 winning ideas from The Miami Foundation’s 2016 Public Space Challenge. Winning projects include similar efforts by public libraries in Hialeah and Allapattah. They’re partnering with residents and local businesses to develop safe community spaces with areas for exercising, learning and playing.
“Residents in Greater Miami recognize the power of parks and open spaces to shape our community,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “The more than 1,400 ideas submitted to the Challenge in the last four years underscores this. Every Miamian deserves a well-maintained park and gathering place within a 10-minute walk from home, whether for a pick-up game of soccer or a safe space to spend time after school.”
The Public Space Challenge is a platform for residents to create, improve and activate parks and public spaces in their neighborhoods. This year, individuals, organizations and public agencies throughout Miami-Dade County submitted more than 400 ideas, setting a new record for number of entries since the program began in 2012. In partnership with the Health Foundation of South Florida and the Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, District 11, The Miami Foundation will invest $305,000 to help residents make the winning projects happen.
“Over four years of this partnership, we’ve witnessed tremendous growth in the number of creative ideas,” said Steve Marcus, president and CEO of Health Foundation of South Florida. “We are delighted to continue supporting public space projects that improve access to nutritious, healthy foods and physical activities.”
With support from Commissioner Zapata, West End residents submitted more entries than ever before, including three winning ideas to improve local transit and increase access to the arts.
“I am very proud of all the great ideas for improving our public spaces,” Commissioner Zapata said. “The overwhelming response from our residents shows that the West End is a truly vibrant community.”
The winners already have begun creating project timelines and recruiting build-out teams. In addition to the funding, each group will receive technical assistance from The Miami Foundation to work with county and municipal offices in executing their projects.
To learn more about this year’s winning ideas, visit ideas.ourmiami.org.