The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation kicks off the 2018 Parks After Dark (PAD) season on June 14 at 33 county parks, including Val Verde Community Regional Park, with numerous free programs and events for children and the entire family to enjoy during balmy summer evenings.
PAD encourages healthy living, promotes social connectedness and provides safe havens during extended evening hours of park operation and programming at parks throughout Los Angeles County. Parks will be kept open to provide local youth and families with a variety of free recreational opportunities, health outreach and social services.
PAD takes place Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., and will last until Aug. 4 at 33 parks throughout the County. To view the list of parks, click [here].
These 33 county parks will host free activities that include organized sports, exercise classes, teen activities, swimming, concerts and movies, arts and crafts and jumpers for kids, cooking classes, and resource fairs that offer social, health, youth employment, economic and legal services. Some parks will also host Environment, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (ESTEAM) informational mobile museums and booths.
Since its inception in 2010 with only three parks, PAD has helped transform county parks into safe havens for community members to participate in quality programming and gain access to valuable resources.
PAD has helped transform gang-impacted parks into safe community hubs. A 2017 evaluation conducted by UCLA showed that PAD:
– Achieves high participation rates and increases access to quality services and programming (there were over 198,000 visits to the PAD parks in 2017).
– Achieves high satisfaction rates (over 96% of attendees indicated they would participate in PAD again and recommend it to a friend).
– Increases collaboration among different stakeholders (over 90% of the agencies that participated in the 2017 resource fairs agreed PAD made it easier to reach their target populations and that their services were well-received by participants).
– Decreases community violence and increases perception of safety (an estimated 41 serious and violent crimes and 478 lesser offenses were avoided from 2010 to 2017).
– Increases physical activity and reduces the risk of chronic disease (84% of participants engaged in physical activity during PAD, including those who previously led sedentary lifestyles).
– Increases social cohesion and community well-being (98% indicated PAD improved quality time with family, and 96% indicated PAD improved relationships with neighbors). Achieves cost savings for the County (over 3 million dollars in estimated chronic disease and criminal justice costs were avoided in 2017).
“Parks After Dark builds resilient communities across Los Angeles County,” said John Wicker, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. “We partner with numerous county departments and community-based organizations to provide an incredible array of free, fun and outcome-based programming and services for youth and families. PAD also provides a comprehensive and collaborative approach to fostering social cohesion, reducing crime rates, creating safe park environments, and enhancing health.”
PAD is led by the Department of Parks and Recreation, with strong support from partners including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Chief Executive Office, Sheriff’s Department, Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services; Probation Department, Department of Children and Family Services, and many other government and community-based organizations.
“From a public health perspective, being physically active has profound health benefits, particularly in preventing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some forms of cancer,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“But, we must address the barriers to healthy living, including community violence, to ensure everyone in L.A. County has access to the resources and opportunities needed for health and well-being. Parks After Dark creates safe havens and community hubs at local parks, making it easier for people to be active, build relationships with neighbors and law enforcement, and access needed health and social services that promote community-wide healing.”