Phoenix turns a dangerous park into a community treasure

After years as a crime-riddled park, the community has come together to transform John F. & Mary P. Long Homestead Park into a community treasure.

Councilwoman Betty Guardado, Dist. 5, spoke at the Tree Planting and WalkPHX event designed to reactivate and revitalize John F. & Mary P. Long Homestead Park in the heart of downtown West Phoenix earlier this month. The event was designed to create a safe and positive environment for greater community and family involvement.

Guardado, along with Park Rx, which is part of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, the Arizona Community Tree Council, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate the maintenance and planting of trees, and others, worked together to organize the event.

This event is the fifth “reactivation” event hosted by Guardado, in hopes of revitalizing the parks of Phoenix, district five.

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Homestead Park has been a haven for criminals, drug addicts and the homeless. It faced challenges with high crime rates in and around the park and evidence of harmful activity in its restrooms.

Dan Wilson, director of communications for the city of Phoenix, said collecting crime statistics in and around Homestead Park is a complicated and slow process.

Guardado talked about safe parks for children and families.

“As a mom of a 5 year old who loves to run in parks and an 11 year old, I can relate immensely to the need for[sic]good clean parks. Being able to have trees, shade and places where our children can have fun,” Guardado said.

Guardado thanked Park Rx for hosting the cleanup event.

By spending just over $5,000, Park Rx was able to donate and plant 48 trees at Homestead Park, which was made possible by a grant held by the Arizona Community Tree Council funded by the Vitalyst Health Foundation.

Yasmin Zavarce of Park Rx serves as a liaison between health services and the community. She spoke on behalf of the company, providing information about the purpose of their initiative.

“Our program has helped transform communities by making lasting changes to the environment in which people live, work and play,” Zavarce said.

Park Rx is a joint project between the Maricopa County Public Health Department’s AZ HealthZone (SNAP Education) and the Arizona Community Tree Council, with support from Vitalyst Health Foundation and Keep Phoenix Beautiful, according to its website.

According to Zavarce, Park Rx resonates with people looking to benefit from an active lifestyle and improve their social well-being.

“Finding time and ways to connect with people in the same neighborhood also gives them a positive purpose in life,” Zavarce said.

Phoenix City Council Director of Parks and Recreation Cynthia Aguilar also paid tribute to the parks and recreation team.

“I wanted to thank our team who came here, but also who help take care of more than 185 parks throughout the city,” Aguilar said.

Participants were able to discover a new walking path, accompanied by Guardado, who unveiled the WalkPHX sign which indicates the route of the path and the time it takes to complete it.

The walking loop is a quarter mile including directions to where to start and the safest direction to walk.

Community members learned how to properly plant and level a tree by the City of Phoenix. Families and children gathered around different holes and started digging, watering and leveling the trees.

“We’re going to make sure we put this park to work,” Guardado said.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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