What is the need for recreational assets like regional parks, beaches and trails in a county with over ten million residents? What are the potential opportunities to expand existing parklands and acquire additional land for recreation and conservation purposes? What are the unique park and recreation needs of rural areas and how do we best address them? In this article, park planner Clement Lau reports that the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is starting a community engagement and outreach process to help answer these questions and more. As a focused update to the 2016 Los Angeles Countywide Parks Needs Assessment, this effort is called the “Regional and Rural Edition.” Specifically, the study will apply an equity lens to comprehensively identify, analyze, map, and document:
- The need for regional facilities, including regional parks, beaches and lakes, trails, and natural areas and open spaces
- The park needs of rural communities which are primarily located in the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and Santa Monica Mountains
Designed to be extensive and inclusive, the community engagement and outreach process is being launched this month in partnership with county departments, community-based organizations, and other groups. Due to COVID-19-related health restrictions on in-person meetings and group gatherings, the process will consist primarily of online engagement and physically distanced activities, including the following:
- Project website updates
- Surveys/polls using tools like Maptionnaire
- Social media, including platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
- Stakeholder interviews
- Phone calls
- Focus groups
DPR has also convened a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to help inform and guide the process of data collection and analysis, development of metrics, community engagement and outreach, and other key aspects of the project. The TAC includes representatives from a broad range of agencies and organizations with expertise in beaches, parks, public health, regional planning, transportation, open space and conservation, sustainability, and geographic information systems (GIS).
DPR is the lead agency charged with updates and implementation of the Countywide Parks Needs Assessment. The 2016 Parks Needs Assessment involved a 14-month process that included data collection and analysis, engagement with stakeholders and community members in cities and unincorporated areas, prioritization and cost estimation of prioritized park projects, and the determination of park need in each study area based on a suite of metrics. The Parks Needs Assessment directly informed the development of Measure A, a countywide funding measure for parks approved by nearly 75 percent of L.A. County voters in November 2016 and generates more than $90 million annually.