Community built park brings new hope for rough neighborhood

December 12, 2013 9:30 pm

Pogo Park

Richmond’s Iron Triangle has seen the bulk of the city’s crime and violence over the years but hope is coming to the area with the new Pogo Park.

In 2013 the Triangle, which makes up a third of the city, saw half of Richmond’s homicides. But change is on the way and residents say they’re excited to see what’s to come.

“Kids, they love the park, and they can’t wait ‘til the park gets finished,” said Eddie Doss who lives across the street and works for the park.

The park, also known as Elm Play Lot, has been at Elm Avenue and 8th Street for decades.

“I remember I used to come to this park when I was six,” said Doss.

But in the years since Doss was a boy, the park had become inhospitable to children.

“It was mainly like people who were drinking, smoking, doing other stuff, other than playing,” said park worker and Iron Triangle resident Karina Guadalupe.

Tood Maher created the Pogo Park idea with a two million dollar state grant to revitalize the 1/2 acre plot of land, partly because there are more children here than in any other part of the city.

“All the research shows kids cannot be healthy unless they have a place to play. Play, it’s the mother’s ‘breast milk’ of development,” Maher said.

But this was more than just giving to the community.

“We went out and knocked on doors and hired a bunch of folks from the neighborhood. And became part of the Pogo Park staff, and it’s this neighborhood team that came up with a vision for what this park was going to be,” added Maher.

They’re also the ones building it.

Guadalupe says, “we don’t come to work just for a paycheck. You know, we live here so we’re more invested in it.”

The park will have a trike path, an arts and crafts area, a culturally diverse housing play area and even a zip line.

“I can’t tell you how many times a day somebody comes by and says ‘God bless you’ or you all are doing a good job,” Maher told KTVU.

The park is set to be complete by spring.

Richmond Police aren’t worried about criminals coming back.

“They don’t want to take on the community, they don’t want to take on the police. They want to exist in the more desolate less traveled areas. Something like this is not the place for them to take hold,” said Captain Mark Gagan.

Once this is all done, the next big project is a five million dollar Unity Park on the Richmond Greenway.