The City of Pasadena announced on Tuesday, October 6th that the City Council has approved an innovative Healthy Parks Plan for its park system. Pasadena’s previous Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan was approved in 1998. The goal of the Healthy Parks Plan is to identify the highest priority investments to ensure that Pasadena continues to thrive through making its parks healthy, welcoming, and accessible to all. The long-term vision for the Healthy Parks Plan is a healthy, thriving, and connected Pasadena where safe, beautiful, welcoming parks ensure that everyone has a place to belong, be active, and enjoy nature.
The new Healthy Parks Plan identifies current recommendations and priority projects, but also provides a set of tools for the Pasadena Parks and Recreation Department and its partners to use for ongoing adaptive planning and management with a focus on health and equity. The final report for the Healthy Parks Plan is available online at https://www.pasadenatx.gov/healthyparksplan.
The development of the plan for the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Parks and Recreation Department was led by the Houston Parks Board in partnership with Asakura Robinson and Land and Water Connections Consulting. The planning effort received generous support from Houston Endowment and Pasadena Vibrant Community, a program of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center supported by Shell Oil.
The Pasadena Healthy Parks Plan is based on the premise that parks are absolutely essential to health and quality of life. Health as addressed by the plan includes the physical, mental, social, and economic health of Pasadena residents and the environmental and financial health of Pasadena and its park system. Research shows that close-to-home parks help build social connections, reduce stress and depression, and lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Currently, according to The Trust for Public Land, only 54% of Pasadena residents have access to park within a 10-minute walk of home.
Emphasizing the importance of the Plan, Beth White, CEO of the Houston Parks Board, said “I commend the City of Pasadena for their commitment to quality parks as the foundation of healthy communities. Quality parks are the foundation of healthy communities. They bring people together. They attract workers and businesses, and they provide opportunities for connection, exercising and relaxing. They can even protect people from dangerous heat and flooding. No other infrastructure does all that. Our organization has created, improved, and advocated for parks for everyone for 40-plus years, so we know that good parks can be transformative.”
Similarly, Jed Aplaca, Director of the Pasadena Parks and Recreation Department, noted that “COVID-19 has made the importance of parks and access to healthy outdoor activities crystal clear. People need parks, and we have to make sure that parks provide the resources that our communities can’t get anywhere else.”
Forty-three Advisory Committee members representing over 30 local, regional, and state organizations helped shape the Plan, along with thousands of local residents who participated in the project’s equity-driven community engagement. Advisory Committee members represented the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Pasadena Independent School District, Harris County Public Health, YMCA of Greater Houston, and BakerRipley in addition to many other organizations.
The Plan’s recommendations are organized into seven overarching goals intended to ensure that Pasadena’s parks are accessible, welcoming, healthy, environmentally resilient, connected, responsive and valued, and fiscally sound. There are specific recommendations related to improving existing parks, developing connected trails and greenways, and expanding park access. The Healthy Parks Plan recommends expanding bilingual outreach and creates new standards for level of service that would require strategically increasing the number of drinking fountains/water bottle filling stations, playgrounds, picnic tables, and soccer fields in Pasadena’s parks (among many other amenities). In addition, expanding shade and access to nature in Pasadena’s parks came through as a major community priority.
Many community leaders are quoted in the Healthy Parks Plan Report. Salvador Serrano, owner of the Serrano Insurance Agency, makes a forceful case for local parks: “Parks and trails are one of the strongest parts of how people interact with the city. They could be the place to knit together otherwise divided communities. Pasadena needs places that attract people from both sides of town.” Cristina Womack, CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, is quoted as saying “There is a lack of attraction for younger generations to stay in Pasadena. Parks have the potential to influence making Pasadena a more attractive and desirable place to live.”
In response to the approval and launch of the Healthy Parks Plan, Mayor Jeff Wagner stated that “Pasadena’s parks and its recreation programs are critical to the health of our wonderful community. We are so pleased with all of the effort that went into this plan and are blessed to have the opportunity to bring all Pasadena residents together in support of our parks.” Elizabeth Love, Senior Program Officer at the Houston Endowment, said, “We congratulate the City of Pasadena and its partners on the adoption of the Healthy Parks Plan. We appreciate the extensive community engagement that the City undertook in the plan’s development and believe that its implementation will benefit all of Pasadena’s residents for years to come.”
About Houston Parks Board
A nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to providing access to quality parks and greenspace in the Greater Houston region, Houston Parks Board creates, improves, protects and advocates for parks for everyone. Since 1976, the organization has utilized public-private partnerships and its extensive philanthropic, government and community relationships to improve parks large and small. Houston Parks Board is currently leading the transformational $220 million Bayou Greenways 2020 project to complete a 150-mile network of connected parks and trails along Houston’s major waterways. For more information, visit www.houstonparksboard.org.
About Asakura Robinson
Asakura Robinson is a planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm which strengthens environments and positively impacts communities through innovation, engagement, stewardship, and an integrated design process. Asakura Robinson staff are leaders in social and environmental design within the Houston-Galveston region and beyond.
About Land and Water Connections Consulting
Land and Water Connections Consulting leads community-based planning and research projects to help expand equitable access to the benefits of parks and conservation.