Tacoma Community Schoolyards
What We’re Doing
Transforming schoolyards into vibrant neighborhood parks.
Increase access to nature-rich community spaces for students and neighbors.
Tacoma is home to some spectacular parks, including world-class public spaces like Point Defiance Park. But despite these iconic parks, access to green space is unequal. More than 65,000 people do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home, the largest park access gap of any major city in Washington.
Like in many cities, park access follows inequities in income, health, and other resources. And most land is already developed, leaving limited opportunities to create new parks.
Tacoma’s Eastside and South End neighborhoods are diverse and engaged communities with shared visions for a greener future where everyone can connect to nature. Today, residents of the Eastside and South End have the most limited nature access in the city. Thanks to advocacy by the community, that will soon change. TPL is partnering with Tacoma Public Schools, Metro Parks Tacoma, and local leaders to renovate and open five community schoolyards by 2024.
Transforming schoolyards into vibrant green spaces gives students daily access to nature-rich play that supports their learning, health, and happiness. Opening schoolyards as local parks outside of school hours expands access to nature’s benefits for the whole neighborhood.
Students are the experts on what makes the best schoolyard and play space. A huge component of our work is collaborating with students, teachers, and neighbors to design schoolyards that advance community goals, reflect local cultures, and feature student interests. The result? Beautiful outdoor spaces brimming with one-of-a-kind artwork, fun and interactive playgrounds, and useful amenities for neighbors of every age.
By 2024, more than 2,000 elementary school students in Tacoma will have a new, vibrant schoolyard to enjoy and explore. These once-underused schoolyards, turned into dynamic neighborhood parks, will serve 25,000 people within a 10-minute walk of home.
Across the city, schoolyards are packed with potential: renovating and opening all of Tacoma’s schoolyards to the public after school would put a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 88 percent of residents.
1. Helen B. Stafford Elementary
In the South End neighborhood of Tacoma, 550 students attend Stafford Elementary. Neighbors frequently use the schoolyard for walking, gathering, and drop-in activities. Trees, seating areas, improvements to the track and playfield, and new, interactive play equipment will transform this schoolyard into a green play space and vibrant community hub. The investments in this schoolyard will create a new high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 5,162 nearby residents.
2. Jennie Reed Elementary
In the South End neighborhood of Tacoma, 450 students attend Jennie Reed Elementary. The school’s proximity to I-5 results in noise and air pollution in the schoolyard. The addition of more trees and vegetation will help to buffer and address the noise and air pollution. Jennie Reed Elementary benefits from an active PTA group and a local community group, which have both played large roles in the design and community engagement process. Investing in this schoolyard will create a new high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 644 nearby residents.
3. Mann Elementary
In the South End neighborhood of Tacoma, 450 students attend Mann Elementary. Uneven surfaces across the asphalt play area and an outdated playground create access issues for students. The schoolyard will benefit from interactive and accessible play equipment, more trees, improvements to the track and playfield, and additional seating areas. The Mann Elementary PTA is providing important insight on new amenities and schoolyard design. Investing in this schoolyard will bring a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 3,075 nearby residents.
4. Whitman Elementary
More than 400 students attend Whitman Elementary in the South End neighborhood of Tacoma. The schoolyard includes a significant asphalt-covered play area and an upper area that includes a grass playfield with an informal track, raised planter boxes, play equipment set on wood chips, and adult exercise equipment. The community is excited to see improvements to the track and playfield, new amenities in the lower asphalt area, and interactive play equipment. The Whitman Elementary PTA and several community leaders are contributing to the design of the new schoolyard. Investing in this schoolyard will create a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 2,189 nearby residents.
5. IDEA High School*
In the Eastside neighborhood of Tacoma, 370 students attend Larchmont Elementary. The schoolyard includes a playground, a natural turf field, and passive grassy area. The grassy area represents a multitude of opportunities to bring the community’s vision to life for this play space. Students and neighbors already use the schoolyard regularly for drop-in activities like games of cricket. Creating a green schoolyard in this space would fortify community ownership and solidify the schoolyard as a community hub. Investing in this schoolyard will create a new high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of home for 1,102 nearby residents.
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