SETTING THE STAGE
On Saturday August 13, 2016, a sea of women and girls in blue working woman’s attire and polka dot bandanas gathered at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historic Park to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the most number of women dressed as Rosie the Riveter at a single gathering. With 2,229 Rosies, the National Park succeeded in eclipsing the previous year’s record, but more importantly provided a unique way for community members to maintain the memory and history of the iconic WWII character.
This is a snapshot of the diverse and supportive community of parks and public lands in Richmond, California, an urban community that is part of the larger San Francisco Bay Area. Diversity is part of the fabric of the city. People of color make up nearly 70% of the city’s population, and they bring with them cultural celebrations and traditions like Juneteenth, Cinco de Mayo, and the Richmond Native American Pow-Wow. While culturally rich, Richmond faces health issues such as high rates of obesity and type-II diabetes, which disproportionately affect people of color. Health service providers and the local government have partnered on wellness education projects to address these; the Park Service has a place in that discourse as well.
Through interviewing Kieron Slaughter about his last two years as the Urban Fellow in Richmond at Rosie the Riveter, Slaughter stressed how connecting recreational opportunities through the lens of improving health was a model way to implement the Urban Agenda, and the main focus of the work of the National Park Service during the pilot in Richmond.
THE URBAN AGENDA IN ACTION
To Slaughter, the vision for Urban Agenda implementation in Richmond was “to increase the visibility of the NPS through a key project that can be attributed to the model phase.” Through conversations with the community and local stakeholders, NPS staff honed in on increasing access to the outdoors and the health of Richmond communities. What evolved from this focus was the Richmond Wellness Trail, the flagship example of applying the principles of the Urban Agenda in Richmond. The first of its kind in the Pacific West Region of NPS, the “active trail” will be a safe, inviting, multimodal route that inspires a healthy, active lifestyle - increasing connections among historic Downtown Richmond, known also as the Iron Triangle, the natural and historic features of the waterfront and the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center. It showcases murals and art installations with positive messaging, fitness equipment, and opportunities for connections with health-focused technology applications, all designed to inspire visitors to make health and wellness-oriented lifestyle changes. “Based on the success and feedback from the pilot, the Wellness Trail represents a direction the Park Service should continue — framing and utilizing parks as a place for relieving stress, fighting obesity, depression etc,” Slaughter advocates pointing to new successful programs like Park Rx, or Healthy Parks Healthy People.
Slaughter also stressed that while working on this large model, it was important for NPS to also “focus on small but highly visible events that showcased applications of the three principles.” One example of this was the renovation of John F. Kennedy Park, a seven-acre, beleaguered park for which the surrounding community had long-expressed a need for repair. NPS, the Trust for Public Land, and the City of Richmond gathered almost 400 people to carry out 25 simultaneous projects on one afternoon, to successfully rebuild the park in a single day. In a park that hadn’t seen much love in decades, now there is a community mural, urban garden plots, a dirt bike track, and more. These events illustrate new methods to not only NPS staff, but to its partners, and the communities NPS engages or hopes to engage. This familiarizes all parties with the principles in action, and makes it more likely that they will adopt these practices in future programs and projects.
Leverage Technical Assistance
NPS technical assistance early on in a project can be used to leverage other support and funding. “Getting assistance from community assistance programs like RTCA [Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance] lets other potential funders know the project is supported,” Slaughter advocated. Decentralizing funding sources may seem daunting or inefficient, but even small grants and technical assistance can be leveraged for larger funds, more technical assistance, and new partnerships down the line.
Challenge the Organizational Structure
“GS [General Schedule Pay Scale] levels can be meaningless to me, with the approval of my host, I just reached out to folks and asked how they could help,” Slaughter admits. Outreach wasn’t limited to NPS staff at Rosie the Riveter, he added, “It’s important to involve staff at all levels from other national parks, city park staff, and representatives from the state.” Kieron challenged the chain of command and embraced horizontal management, treating staff, regardless of GS levels, as peers who could help with projects. By finding allies who were willing to activate the principles or relevancy and collaboration at various levels, NPS staff across these levels built relationships connected by the Urban Agenda, thus modeling One NPS.
Encourage Fun, No “Shushing”
Many of the programs activated because of the Urban Agenda relate to building a capable and diverse next generation of national park stewards. Through youth programming, NPS can share its resources and offer many kids opportunities for recreation and education they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Slaughter stresses that free play is extremely valuable to building this next generation. “Encourage kids to have fun, it’s not a museum! We’re competing with other interactive type venues - amusement parks, science museums, so our spaces when possible should be places that are interactive and fun!”
In continuing to implement the principles of the Urban Agenda, Slaughter advocates that “major initiatives be supported from the top down but they need to be informed and inspired by folks from the ground-up.” Exposure to initiatives like this cannot be a charge of which only the deputy and superintendent of a park are aware. Efforts such as the Urban Agenda need to be intentionally introduced to the entire staff, where questions and discussion can occur. This results in a grass-roots effort to implementation, which in turn strengthens the working relationship among Park Service staff, and between the Park Service and its partners.
Related to the “boots-on-the-ground” employees, “There’s a big missed opportunity when diverse youth work at a local level in city parks but don’t continue with that career path.” It should be common practice to facilitate education for these young interns and volunteers on hiring paths and the sustainability and benefits of seasonal jobs. Kieron adds, “Any kind of education needs to be followed up with mentoring and support--when they are the only one of their kind they need a culture that lends itself to propping up their voice, they need a cohort.”
Signature Project: The Richmond Wellness Trail
The Richmond Wellness Trail is a collaborative project to develop an interactive trail that showcases three dimensional murals and art installations with positive messaging designed to inspire visitors to make health and wellness-oriented lifestyle changes. The trail will include several fitness stations and potentially a GPS based, interactive smartphone app giving visitors access to suggestions from physicians and fitness experts that target their interests providing a personalized curated experience, outdoors.
MAKING THE TRAIL A REALITY
At its April 25, 2017 meeting, the Richmond City Council unanimously approved and adopted the Richmond Wellness Trail Vision Plan (RWT) as an addendum to the Richmond Pedestrian Plan. The City of Richmond and Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (RORI) were one of 10 model cities chosen to host an Urban Fellow for two years to activate the Urban Agenda.
Former City of Richmond Associate Planner Kieron Slaughter was selected as the Richmond Urban Fellow with the National Park Service (NPS) and was the project manager for the Urban Agenda, city-specific initiative and capstone project. After a sixth month asset mapping process, Mr. Slaughter received technical assistance from the NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) and a Californian Endowment grant from the Local Government Commission. At the end of a year of complicated and multifaceted community engagement and design work that enlisted local government, Richmond residents, community based organizations, and the healthcare industry, the RWT was developed. Key partners include Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides Co-Op Bicycle Shop, Bike East Bay, Richmond Museum of History, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Urban Tilth, Friends of the Richmond Greenway, Pogo Park and the Institute at the Golden Gate.
A NEW MODEL FOR IMPROVING HEALTH
The Wellness Trail plan identifies deficiencies in existing health and transportation systems, and provides specific recommendations to improve multimodal connectivity to parks, open space and transit. The RWT concept was conceived by local stakeholders and members of the community living and working in the Iron Triangle neighborhood as a way to safely link key areas in the neighborhood to the San Francisco Bay and Richmond Marina. The RWT also implements and supports numerous goals in several adopted City Planning documents such as the General Plan 2030, Climate Action Plan, Pedestrian Plan, Bicycle Master Plan and the South Richmond Transportation Connectivity Plan.
The RWT is a groundbreaking plan for the NPS, serves as a scalable model for improving health disparities in cities adjacent to urban National Parks, and is the first of its kind in the Pacific West Region of NPS. The RWT will be an active trail that will be a safe, inviting, multimodal route that inspires a healthy, active lifestyle - increasing connections between historic Downtown Richmond, the Iron Triangle, and the natural and historic features of the waterfront and the RORI Visitor Center. Enhancements will include health-themed art sculptures, murals, fitness equipment, safety and comfort improvements for pedestrians, traffic calming measures in addition to decorative treatments, wayfinding signage, over 200 new street trees and opportunities for connections with health-focused technology applications.
CITY CONNECTIONS IMPROVE COMMUNITY HEALTH
Many studies connect urban park use to decreased stress levels and improved moods and the RWT will improve mental health by increasing access to parks and green spaces for Richmond residents. The trail will also deliver a range of health and wellness benefits by increasing physical activity (walking and biking) and will encourage residents to bike and walk to local services and open spaces, rather than drive, reducing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The RWT route will also provide a location for patients of institutions like Kaiser Permanente and Lifelong Medical Centers a convenient and safe location to fulfill “park prescriptions” issued by health care professionals. Park prescription programs encourage healthcare professionals to offer a “prescription” for patients who need to increase physical activity, with the ultimate goal of patients adopting regular walking, jogging and bicycling as a lifelong activity. Furthermore, the RWT will serve as a convenient location for “Healthy Park Healthy People” Programing in partnership with the National Park Service, City of Richmond and other partners.
The RWT and background documents are available for download at the project website.
National Parks in RichmondRosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park
John Muir National Historic Site
Nearby National Parks
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site
Population: 103,701 | Park acres within city limits: 292.6 acres (1.5% of city land)
Last updated: September 12, 2017