Give Young People a Say in Fresno’s Parks

By Patrick Antunez

Photo by Alheli Cuenca.

FRESNO, Calif. — As a child of Fresno I grew up loving parks. From the late nights hanging out with my friends to the days of scraping my knees at the skate park, parks have served as a place of community, self-expression and a judgment-free zone.

But over time I started noticing something about the parks that I loved — they weren’t growing with me.

Fresno comes in 97th out of 100 in the annual ParkScore rankings, which look at available park space per resident in the nation’s largest 100 cities.

A lack of park space is nothing new for the people of South Fresno but solutions are not coming quick enough. And while residents have ideas about how to solve the problem, they are repeatedly left out of conversations about expanding park access.

Specifically, Fresno needs to create a policy designed to incorporate youth, something that could be a vital tool in fixing our park problem. It only makes sense to look to the expertise of those who are most knowledgeable when it comes to Fresno’s parks; after all, who knows parks better than those who use them every day?

By implementing a youth parks commission, youth will have the chance to work with the city to resolve the issues around parks. Just like they did with Romain Park.

The revitalization of Romain Park allowed youth to have a say in the creation of a brand new skate park in Fresno. It also led to a park clean up day, a revamp of the park’s interior gym, a new mural — created by youth — and a community garden. Also, at the opening of Romain’s skate park, there were hundreds of local skaters ready to shred the scene.

It continues to be a central avenue for many teens and skaters.

Romain Park should serve as an example of what direct youth involvement can achieve. Youth took leadership and showed our love for parks. We were allowed to share our voices and it inspired us to take action and tackle our park problem. We brought raw insight and fresh ideas to what our park space can be and it manifested our power.

We need to invest in our parks by investing in our youth. We need to make youth involvement in parks a reality to keep our momentum going. Let’s take a step in the right direction by first creating the policy to make sure that youth get a spot in the discussion and then making sure that they stay in that discussion.

Involving youth would not only help our parks, but it would make us stronger and more connected as a community. With unity we can create a healthier, more beautiful Fresno.