If you have been around Folwell Park this past August, you would have seen a rise of violence among the young people hanging out at the park. Students, young kids, families and folks walking their pets were choosing to not go to Folwell Park because it was unsafe. Police were being called nightly and it was more than the park staff could handle.
A meeting was called to discuss strategies and options for de-escalating situations before they got out of control and students got hurt. Groups like Street Outreach, Pop Up Parks, Folwell Connectors and Mother’s Love all joined to have a strong adult presence at the Park for roughly six hours per day every day of the week for the last weeks of summer until school started. The park staff and police saw a significant reduction in violence. It was a beautiful effort of everyone pulling together to ensure that Folwell Park would remain a safe place for everyone, however, it isn’t a long term strategy.
One step to create a long term strategy was for the Folwell Neighborhood (FNA) and the Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator to hold a parent and youth meeting with the folks who live on the park along with families and youth who use the park to hear their ideas of what is needed.
While the solutions for addressing violence is multifaceted, one thing for sure is that community involvement is critical to shared power and shared ownership in creating healthy spaces for everyone to enjoy. The Folwell Community is leading this work in a way that centers on health and investment. A few immediate resident-led solutions that have already begun is a Walking Club three times a week, Mon-Wed-Fri starting at 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 37th and Humboldt. The goal is to be healthy together and build relationships between residents who are walking and families and youth using the park. Another resident is advocating for more lighting on the hill which is supported by the majority of folks living on the park. (You can read more about the “Lighting on the Hill” in Caroyln Bastick’s article in this issue.) FNA staff is also checking in weekly with park staff to learn about any new developments or concerns while increasing a Neighborhood Connector presence at the park. Kale Severson, Folwell’s MPRB Commissioner, joined community members at Neighborhood Night to hear concerns and offer connections and ideas for building long term strategies. In a matter of weeks, the community rallied around this concern and has mobilized multiple ideas.
Long term solutions to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the park will include a variety of stakeholder meetings with a wide range of supporters and community members to create a comprehensive plan for next summer. This will focus heavily on the month of August as this is often one of the “hottest” months for kids whose summer programing has ended and school has not begun. Building relationships, youth programming, and opportunity sat at the forefront of greatest impact possibility across the board from all the meetings and conversations held for this issue. Next summer strategies will keep these three key elements as the foundation of the solutions. Some ideas that have been suggested include: A youth summit, youth job creation in the park, big summer kick-off event, weekly activities, walking club, and more.
If you would like to be a part of the dedicated team to “Reclaim Folwell Park” reach out to FNA staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. More info will be posted at folwell.org.