National Night Out Seeds Health In University Neighborhood

national_night_out_080409_thumbOur neighborhood party Tuesday, August 4th was a rousing success. Over 150 neighbors, police, fire and city councilmen attended. Mike Gardner was there early and helped set up. Too bad he and the fire crew had to leave for the next stop before all the food came. The pic is for you Mike.  Next time we’ll fix a plate. At least Andy Melendrez got to sample some of Christina Duran’s wings.

The variety and number of dishes was staggering. More than enough for the start of our neighborhood cookbook. Please post your recipes.

The event marked a fabulous opportunity to showcase the “Is It Healthy?” Game in action on a neighborhood level.

I think bringing that inquiry into our social networking endeavors  serves us well. It could make fulfilling our commitment to having UCR’s Med school sooner rather than later. I wonder what the dividends of turning an under served, under performing population for health outcomes into a national model might look like?

How quickly could we begin enrolling  residents into the game? Walking is a great first start.islander_park_trails_thumb

Getting our trails network completed for more walking would be a natural next step.  How many neighborhoods could we clean up or link up with trails?  What kind of social capital would it take to get it done this year?

“Is It Healthy ?” is showing up in the many community gardens sprouting up all over town. Seeds of Change donated free vegetable garden seeds for everyone who attended. We gave away over 100 seed packets to aspiring and veteran gardeners.

school_gardens1_thumbWhether they have a pot or a plot, neighbors want UCR to consider saving the historic house on the noll. They think it’s best use would be to anchor UCR’s Community garden with an office and tool shed.

When the rest of the dorms are finally build out, having a viable community garden acting as the buffer that defines the campus neighborhood perimeter (around Valencia Hill and Watkins Drive) would also knit together the arroyo preservation and honor UCR’s  architectural and agricultural  history.

It could also be the healthiest solution. Add some fruit trees along that walkable perimeter, include some citrus, and UCR, the students and the neighbors win. Tim White said he liked the idea when I spoke to him at the UCR community garden launch.

It’s also a real easy way to kick start the design of the Watkins “Paseo” Gateway — the neighborhood entrance as documented in our UCR Neighborhood Specific Plan. It’s a healthy solution. It’s certainly a reflection of the historic values of our neighborhood.

Goodwin’s is about to test an Organic Farmer’s Market in the parking lot on the 22nd.

We had over 150 people show up for national night out at Islander pool. Free Swim Night. That health theme isn’t going away. Many of them signed a museum petition to rethink the health of our cultural assets if the current management plan persists.

The need to better utilize our existing parks and keep scouting for opportunities to create new ones was a topic resulting from neighbors connecting and having a great place to do so.

Some of us have been discussing the acquisition of  Dr. Last’s property next to Islander Park.  He keeps trying to build high density housing and the neighbors keep opposing. In fact, that was the first issue I became aware of when we moved here in 86. Jane Block introduced me to my neighbors and the rest is history.

We’ve been brainstorming how to make it happen assuming he will sell. We think he should get a fair price. Maybe even name the center in his honor. What would a redevlopment zone look like that included a  self assessed parcel tax  to seed the purchase and the operational endowment?

Our neighborhood is grossly under served for parks and a community center. We want a multi function, LEED certified facility. Maybe we announce an architectural design contest. Film the whole process and pitch the content to one of the cable shows. My Green Riverside anyone? Isn’t the entire basis for sustainability and the green ecomony based on winning the “Is It Healthy?” Game?

What commercial opportunites could we include that offered job skill training, generated operational revenue and  hired local teens or seniors? What kind of matching funds could we expect down the road?
Mt. Vernon Park is also underutilized at this time. Why don’t we link them together? Andy Melendrez, Mike Gardner and Ralph Nunez have been asking those questions as well. We think there will be a willingness to make this happen — even in this economy. It’s a healthy solution and everyone understands that.

I think you’ll find that the results residents want for their lives and their neighborhoods starts with the possibility of vibrant, optimal health and the opportunities that foster having it occur. It’s the most relevant conversation that too many of us are not having yet.  Just a thought. Would especially love to know yours.

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