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Community advocacy in South Park leads to new funding for park renovation project

The Seattle Parks Foundation said South Park has 40 square feet of greenspace per resident, compared to the average 387 square feet across Seattle.

SEATTLE — Seattle’s South Park neighborhood is one step closer to getting a new community recreation area. 

This comes after the Seattle Parks Foundation recently received a $250,000 grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which will go towards final construction documents for the community-led project. They are renovating the Puma Playfield at Concord Elementary to be used by both students during school and the public when school is not in session.

“If you look at it, it kind of feels more like a jail than a park,” said Rebecca Bear, the CEO and President of the Seattle Parks Foundation. 

Credit: KING 5

She said the park at Concord Elementary in South Park has scarce trees, is not accessible for many people in the community, and has drainage issues that make it unusable for much of the year.

“In the winter, it is a mud pit,” said Bear.

But Bear said that will soon be changing.

“We applied for the community and thankfully we won which is great,” said Bear.

The $250,000 grant will turn the field into one that will allow kids to have access to recreation opportunities, provide an outdoor space for families in the area, and give the school more opportunities for outdoor activities.

“Having a sad, brown, muddy field with a couple of sad little trees around it, I think our kids deserve more,” said Robin Schwartz, a Concord Elementary School PTA member who said the community has been pushing for this for years.

Community members said it comes down to equity and opportunity, which South Park does not always see. The Seattle Parks Foundation said South Park has 40 square feet of greenspace per resident, compared to the average 387 square feet across Seattle.

“We’re in the middle of freeways and on a freight route and there haven’t, historically, been a lot of public resources, but people here have a really long history of coming together and advocating,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz said public greenspace is especially important in a community like South Park, where many people live in multi-family homes.

“A lot of our kids don’t have yards and if the only parks they have are closed or unusable then where can they go play?” said Schwartz.

The renovated school park will become a community recreation area, open to everyone. Carmen Martinez, with the Duwamish Valley Youth Core said multiple kids she works with have been advocating for this change and now they will get see how their efforts will better the community for years to come.

“Those youth that were a part of this original process of the outreach and the advocating for it will be adults,” said Martinez.

She said this shows when a community comes together, funding can be attained and change can be made.

“Knowing that we're a step closer and it's something great and positive for South Park, we're really happy for South Park,” said Martinez.

Change that will soon be seen in the form of a new park.

“Seeing this come to life will be really huge for the community,” said Bear.

The Seattle Parks Foundation said it expects to start construction in the summer of 2024.

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