October 2012

Improvements Called for at Youngblood-Coleman Playground

By Morgane Byloos

A Bayview community advocate is working to demonstrate that ‘it takes a village’ is more than just a saying. Vanessa Banks is leading the “We 4 Youngblood-Coleman Park Initiative,” which aims to rehabilitate the Youngblood-Coleman Playground, on Hudson Avenue. Banks grew up near the park, and is concerned that use of it has drastically decreased in the past few years. “This was the only place we had to play and socialize without being on the streets,” Banks said. “I want this park back up for this community.”

Born of tragedy, the park has long been a mecca for neighborhood children. In 1974, Rubin Youngblood and Wardell Coleman Jr., both 10 years old, were killed at the then-public housing construction site when a dirt wall collapsed and caved in on them while they were playing. The incident prompted the City to modify plans to build housing, instead creating a park dedicated to the boys’ families in 1979.

Banks, who is working on a community health degree at Community College of San Francisco, isn’t alone in her efforts to revitalize the community asset. The initiative has received support from the nearby Butchertown Association, Bayview-Hunters Point YMCA, Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco, Javalencia, Parks 94124, San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks, and SF Art Everywhere. BMAGIC, Bayview Mobilization for Adolescent Growth in our Communities, is helping Banks and fellow residents evaluate what needs to be done to provide a nicer environment for kids to play. “When [Banks] called, we immediately jumped on board,” said Lyslynn Lacoste, BMAGIC’s director. “We did a walkthrough, and we were able to identify some of the needs that we have and put them on a map.” Proposed improvements include additional garbage cans, dog-free court and field areas, murals, new paint, and sculptures.

According to Rec and Parks’ Park Service Area Manager Robert Watkins, the park has been partially renovated since the department acquired it from the Redevelopment Agency in the early 1980s. Rec and Parks installed a new synthetic field in 2004 and a brand-new bathroom that’s “one of the best in the City” in 2011, Watkins said. Kimberly Kiefer, Rec and Parks’ director of volunteer programs, said the park receives 30 hours of maintenance a week, more than many other City parks.

But for Banks that’s not enough. She wants to offer services to the community, such as yoga classes, movie nights, clean-up days, kickball tournaments, food vendors, child care, and a food pantry. “There are people trying, but we need to try all together,” Banks said. “I just want the kids to have hope and keep their minds off where they don’t need to be, get them out of the TV.”

According to Watkins, one of the reasons visits to the park have declined is because “softball is not as big in the City as it used to be,” and there aren’t as many kids. Kiefer highlighted the importance of having neighborhood advocates like Banks. “Volunteers are the cornerstone of our community and partnering organizations,” Kiefer said. “In this day and age we cannot afford to sit back and not take an active role giving back to our parks and recreation centers. The level of service by San Franciscans is crucial to our operations and to our communities. We are a City of service, and we rely on the 147,367 hours performed by our amazing volunteers every year.”

Last month National Public Lands Day sponsored an event at the green space at which community members participated in a kickball tournament.

For more information: facebook.com/We4YoungbloodColemanParkInitiative


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