San Bernardino

Healthy High Desert – Adelanto, CA

Adelanto joint use park before:

After:

Images Courtesy Healthy High Desert

Healthy High Desert is a regional partnership between the cities and towns of Adelanto, Hesperia, Apple Valley, and Victorville as well as schools, health care organizations, and residents to promote health and wellness for those who live, work, and play in Southern California’s High Desert.  With support from the California Department of Public Health’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, in partnership with California Project LEAN, this coalition of stakeholders in San Bernardino County are promoting joint use as a solution to the need for safe places to play and be active.

Community Need

Adelanto, CA, a city of about 31,000 residents, lacks park space and facilities that meet the physical activity needs of its residents. Allen Christensen, local Healthy Cities Coordinator, describes the need for appropriate space for physical activity that far exceeds the resources available. While there is some open space in Adelanto, the High Desert community is subject to extreme weather during winter and summer months, and the lack of appropriate facilities limits the community’s ability to come together and be active. Christensen speaks on the need for safe spaces for the community to play – as he says, “the health of the community is stagnant right now” because there aren’t adequate opportunities for people to be active.  Understanding community needs and assets was the first step to working collaboratively to develop a solution to the park deficit in Adelanto.

Joint Use as a Community Solution

In Adelanto, joint use has emerged as a solution for both the schools and the city.  At a new elementary school, an adjacent vacant five-acre lot owned by the school district became a site for the school and the city to work together to develop a shared use park in January 2011. The school district owns the land, but wanted to move the joint use efforts forward to increase areas for the community to get physically active.

The next steps for the land include removing the gate around the park area to allow the community to use the area. City government, including the parks and recreation commission, has engaged nonprofit partners and community members to develop a vision for the space.  Allen Christensen highlights the active, engaged members of the city government, especially the Parks and Recreation Coordinator, as well as school staff that understand the benefits of joint use, as a critical component of this success.

Challenges and Opportunities

Staffing changes have been an ongoing challenge to joint use in Adelanto. Turnover among staff at the city, as well as limited resources requiring existing staff to take on additional work, hampered the momentum of the elementary school site project.  However, the city and the school district both have been able to take advantage of grant funding and sought out new staff with enthusiasm for, and experience in, finding ways to make joint use work.

Another challenge for Adelanto has been working with stakeholders to bring all parties on board with the need for formal joint use agreements.  Originally both the city and the school district felt that their existing shared use procedures were sufficient, but Healthy High Desert staff and partners provided education and discussion with all parties to come to the shared understanding that a formal joint use agreement is necessary to help clarify expectations and responsibilities and allow for controlled expansion of joint use of facilities. This discussion helped address the concerns each entity had about protecting assets and the process for handling vandalism and liability issues.

Despite these challenges, the future holds promise on opportunities for Joint Use in Adelanto.  A new high school, the first in Adelanto, is being built and will open in Fall 2012.  Healthy High Desert staff and partners are working with school officials and the city to get their support for building joint use into the plans for the new school.  Christensen says having the school district and the new principal for the school “on board” has been crucial to advancing joint use in Adelanto. When the school opens its doors, Healthy High Desert hopes to have a full-fledged partnership that will bring a new physical activity opportunity to local residents.  The schools are eager to support joint use because they see the benefit of opening their doors to community residents and parents.

Resources:

Contact Healthy High Desert: Allen Christensen  Allen.Christensen@stjoe.org

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