Formalising an informal space into a footpath

Many communities lack opportunities for active living or use public facilities in different ways, so it is important to look for creative and adaptive ways to use land. Residents of the Boyle Heights neighbourhood in East Los Angeles had been using the footpath along the perimeter of the Evergreen Cemetery as a de facto jogging path and gathering place for more than 25 years. Frequent users noticed the area began looking increasingly decrepit — including frequent littering and pavement cracked and disturbed by tree roots and heat. So community members began an effort to clean up the area and petitioned the city to build a community jogging path into the footpath.

Local council members took an interest and the city eventually allocated funds to reconstruct the footpath. Features of the project include a rubberised surface for jogging and new features for tree-root management and storm water run-off reduction. The city is installing new decorative lighting along the path. Use of the path has increased from about 200 to more than 1,000 people a day. According to James Rojas of the Latino Urban Forum, the jogging path “serves [as] a community plaza, where teenagers, the elderly, and mothers with baby strollers congregate to exercise, socialize, and maintain connections to the community.” The community’s success in getting this small project built has created momentum for more changes, including creating safe routes to and from the jogging path.

Resources and sources:

  1. Mendez, M.A. 2003, Latino lifestyle & the new urbanism: synergy against Sprawl, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Aboelata, M.J. 2004, Built Environment and Health: 11 Profiles of Neighbourhood Transformation, Oakland: Prevention Institute, Available at: http://www.preventioninstitute.org/
  3. Active Living and Social Equity: Creating Healthy Communities for All Residents A Guide for Local Governments
    Available at: http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/2506/Active_Living_and_Social_Equity_Creating_Healthy_Communities_for_All_Residents