The Trust for Public Land Launches Program to Improve Schoolyards Across Tacoma

Program will work to ensure everyone in Tacoma lives within a 10-minute walk of a park

November 17, 2020
Tacoma, WA

The Trust for Public Land today announced the launch of its Green Schoolyards program in Tacoma.  This program is an innovative collaboration between The Trust for Public Land, Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), and Metro Parks Tacoma (MPT), which will work to ensure everyone in Tacoma lives within a 10-minute walk of a quality park by 2030. These efforts stem from the City’s commitment to the 10 Minute Walk campaign, a movement to ensure that 100% of U.S. city residents have easy access to parks and green space by 2050. Currently, 31% of Tacoma residents cannot access parks or open spaces within a 10-minute walk of their homes, the largest park access gap of any major city in Washington.  

  

This pilot effort includes the greening and improvement of five schools identified in partnership with TPS and MPT. This program is two years in the making, having been seeded by a 10 Minute Walk grant from National Recreation and Park Association in 2018. If successful, the partnership hopes to continue this effort to serve the 40,000 Tacoma residents who do not currently have access to a park near their home. 

  

The local community will be actively involved in the improvement of each schoolyard park with virtual participatory design sessions being an integral part of the program. Renovated schoolyards will act as public parks for the entire community outside of school hours, and together the first five pilots will serve more than 25,000 people in Tacoma’s eastside neighborhoods. This work will increase the percentage of Tacoma residents living near parks from 69% to 75%. 

  

“A well-designed schoolyard has the power to transform a community,” said David Patton, Northwest Area Director for The Trust for Public Land. “By involving students, teachers, and neighbors in every step of the process in designing this space we are empowering the community to have a say in the future of their school and neighborhood. We are grateful to Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, and the City of Tacoma for partnering with us to help create these exceptional schoolyards.”  

  

“I greatly appreciate the years of planning and partnership that Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, and the Trust for Public Land have devoted to launching the Green Schoolyards initiative. As Tacoma’s Mayor, I am fortunate to have partners like these who share our commitment to the 10 Minute Walk Campaign, to help serve all residents of the city with safe, easy access to a quality park within a 10-minute walk of home by 2030,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “We know that parks are essential for mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. This pilot will increase the percentage of Tacoma residents living near parks from 69 percent to 75 percent, giving more than 25,000 people in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhoods the ability to more readily enjoy natural spaces.” 

  

For nearly 25 years, The Trust for Public Land has guided thousands of students and parents in school districts from coast to coast to transform more than 250 underused schoolyards nationwide into nature-rich parks designed to address climate, health, and educational inequities. Every schoolyard transformation includes agreements between a school district and other local agencies to allow the community to use the space when school is closed.   

  

“This pilot will be transformative for members of our community who have been historically underserved when it comes to safe access to a park within reasonable walking distance from home,” said Metro Parks Tacoma Board President Tim Reid. “We are so grateful for the partnership with The Trust for Public Land and commend the National Recreation and Parks Association for bringing our organizations together through the 10 Minute Walk Campaign.” 

  

New research by The Trust for Public Land reveals that nationwide, 36%of the nation’s 50.8 million public school students attend school in a heat island, which is defined as 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit or more, on average, than the surrounding town or city. Among that group, 4.1 million students go to a school in a severe heat island of 7 degrees or more, while 1.1 million attend school in an extreme heat island of 10 degrees or more. In some communities, the heat anomaly—the difference in average temperature between the schoolyard and the community—exceeds 20 degrees. 

  

The Trust for Public Land plans to transform the schoolyards at five schools in Tacoma: Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Jennie Reed Elementary, Mann Elementary, Whitman Elementary, and Larchmont Elementary. All of these schools are in neighborhoods in Tacoma were residents currently lack a park within a 10-minute walk of home, and these newly redesigned schoolyards will fill the gap. 

  

Lead funding for the Tacoma Green Schoolyards Program has been provided by Kaiser Permanente, Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, the State of Washington, National Recreation and Parks Association, Bamford Foundation, The Russell Family Foundation, Boeing, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To meet the goal of investing $1 million in each schoolyard, additional support from private philanthropy will be essential and a private fundraising effort is underway. 

 
Susan Mullaney, president of Kaiser Permanente Washington, stated, “We know that health doesn’t begin in a doctor's office but extends into schools and our communities. This program will transform schoolyards into community parks that reflect the culture, needs and heart of the communities they serve. And they’ll create access to green space for community members to explore and thrive in safe and healthy ways. Tacoma Green Schoolyards is an investment in the health of these communities.” 

  

Virtual participatory design sessions will begin later this year to redesign the schoolyards at Stafford and Reed elementary schools, and construction is expected to begin in summer 2021. The new schoolyard parks should be open to the public by 2022.  

  

About The Trust for Public Land 

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org

  

 About the 10 Minute Walk 

10 Minute Walk is a campaign dedicated to improving access to safe, quality parks and green spaces in cities—large and small—throughout the U.S. Together, we’re working with leaders to create a world in which 100% of people are within a 10-minute walk of a park or green space by 2050. Led by The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with National Recreation and Park Association and the Urban Land Institute, we drive commitments from city leaders working to achieve this vision and transform their communities by elevating parks and green space. Read more here