Nine years ago, crime and neighborhood deterioration in the 29th Street Area were some of the worst in Tucson. The area was typified by high crime, vacant businesses and undeveloped parks used mostly by drug dealers and prostitutes. The 29th Street Coalition was formed to deal with these problems. The coalition – made up of resident leaders from five adjoining neighborhoods, police, businesses, churches, and key leaders from city government – developed a comprehensive plan to actively address the various community problems. In 2005, the 29th Street Coalition received a Weed & Seed grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the crime, drug dealing and neighborhood deterioration.
While the major focus of the coalition was to decrease crime and drug dealing in the area, improving the parks in the area were other important projects. One of the parks in the 29th Street Area that needed help was Swan Park.
There are two parts of Swan Park. One is a nice green area just west of Swan and seen between 22nd and 29th Streets. To the west is an undeveloped and mostly empty lot. At this lot, trash blows around and gets caught up in the overgrown creosote bushes, hanging there for months. This dark undeveloped lot has, over the years, been the scene of drug dealing, wildcat dumping, homeless camps, etc.
The 29th Street Coalition Weed & Seed decided they needed to do something about this undeveloped lot. Vickie Mesimer, chair of the 29th coalition, got moving. Vickie heard about KaBOOM! projects, where hundreds of volunteers come together to build a playground, and thought the idea might work for Swan Park. Vickie and the coalition wrote for a KaBOOM! grant to install $60,000 of play equipment on the lot; they raised another $15,000 for additional park amenities. Then, the doalition organized more than 400 volunteers, tools, materials, etc., and built the playground in one day!
Many groups wanted to get involved in the KaBOOM! Project. Tucson Playful Cities offered the initial connection to KaBOOM! and provided many hours of technical support. Home Depot provided more than 100 volunteers for the KaBOOM! build. Ward 5 of the City Council provided $7,500 in matching funds for the grant, plus an additional $8,000. Chapman Automotive and Pantano Christian Church each contributed $1,000 to the project. YES-Network acted as the fiscal agent for the project. And there was such an outpouring of community support for the one-day playground build that Tucson Parks & Recreation Department allocated an additional $100,000 for other amenities at Swan Park.
Outcomes: Over the years, the police and coalition have worked together to lower crime rates in the area (down 45% from 2001 to 2009). Not only do people feel better about being out in the neighborhood, but this beautiful new playground also attracts children and families to take ownership of the once-empty lot at Swan Park. A place that once inspired fear and disappointment now is the source of laughter, play and movement.
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