Over the last 30 years, California’s land conservation community has protected millions of acres of forests, grasslands, rivers and working lands that define the State’s natural grandeur and abundance. It is a remarkable achievement. However, as California’s population becomes increasingly diverse and urban, the need to provide accessible open space and safe places to play in communities like the Iron Triangle has become apparent and urgent. Yet, the traditional approach to conservation is not up to this new challenge—a 2015 report by the California Council of Land Trusts noted that: the state’s land trusts generally do not reflect the demographic make-up of California; existing protected lands are not readily accessible to most Californians; and they do not provide the range of outdoor experiences many Californians seek. In short, we have been challenged to find a new approach to conservation, one that marshals our resources, expertise, and funding to create new parks and open space that meet the needs of urban and other underserved communities.


A Better Approach To Urban Conservation

The Conservation Fund set out to discover a new approach to conservation in urban areas, and found Pogo Park, a nonprofit transforming little-used and abandoned city parks in the Iron Triangle into vibrant public spaces that provide play opportunities for Richmond’s most vulnerable children. Pogo Park is doing things differently, relying on its own community members to plan, design, build and manage these park spaces. By empowering the people who know the neighborhood and are directly impacted by it, Pogo Park is demonstrating successful long-term sustainability, ensuring that these spaces are here to stay. 

Through The Conservation Fund’s Parks With Purpose program, we are helping Pogo Park create additional park space in the Iron Triangle. We purchased 0.4 acres adjacent to Harbour-8 Park, utilizing a $260,000, 1% interest loan from The Packard Foundation. Pogo Park will lease the land and work jointly with the Fund to raise capital grants to buy down the cost of the loan and repay our expenses. Over time, we expect that the planned commercial activities at the expanded park will generate enough revenue to pay taxes and maintenance on the property—and maybe even purchase additional land.


Why This Project Matters

Harbour-8 Park is part of the City of Richmond’s planned Yellow Brick Road, a network of brightly stenciled, yellow bike and walking routes that connect schools, parks, churches, community centers, hospitals and public transportation hubs, giving 5,000 local children a safe, clean pathway through the Iron Triangle. 

From Los Angeles to Kansas City to Atlanta, our Parks With Purpose program serves the underserved, improving opportunities for jobs, education and recreation in places that need it most. Community-driven efforts are key to vibrant parks, as parks are reflections of their communities and lead the way for our quality of life. 

We are deeply indebted to The Conservation Fund for its entrepreneurial, can-do spirit, and forward-thinking. They are working with Pogo Park shoulder to shoulder to reimagine how a blank piece of industrial land in one of America's most underserved neighborhoods can be repurposed for the public good. 

                                                                                                                                           —Toody Maher, Executive Director, Pogo Park

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