Collaboration To Improve City Park, Access To Fresh Foods

Jamestown Community College and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation are collaborating to improve the Willard Street playground. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Jamestown Community College and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation are collaborating together to improve the Willard Street playground by possibly adding new playground equipment, a pavilion and better access to fresh fruits and vegetables for neighborhood residents.

The initial steps in the process of improving the park included hosting two community meetings. Shannon Bessette, JCC professor of anthropology, said on May 31 there was a workshop meeting at the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown and on June 1 there was a community input day at JCC. She said the community meetings provided an opportunity for people to brainstorm ideas about what they wanted to have at the park.

“A lot of people were very enthusiastic,” she said. “We had suggestions (for the park) and people elaborated on those suggestions.”

Bessette said another way people have been able to add input into the possible renovations to the park came during the Grow Jamestown Garden Fair and Home Show held at the Northwest Arena in April. She said 100 people participated in a survey about the park during the garden fair and home show. She added one of her students, Laramie Ball, created the survey as part of her honors project.

Bessette said they also went house-to-house survey people in the neighborhood to gather their opinion on what they would like to see done to improve the park.

“There has been a lot of enthusiasm from community members. We didn’t get a single negative comment,” she said. “From the time we walked through the neighborhood and through the comment meetings, we’ve talked to more than 200 people. Everybody is thinking this is a great idea and are excited to see something great happening in the neighborhood.”

JCC and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation received a technical grant, which allowed them access to expertise from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture, Bessette said. She said the professionals from the EPA and the USDA will be assisting to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the neighborhood as part of the park’s revitalization. She added they have received a Local Foods, Local Places grant from the EPA to bring fresh foods to this area of the city, which the USDA considers to be a food desert.

Local Foods, Local Places helps cities and towns across the country protect the environment and human health by engaging with local partners to reinvest in existing neighborhoods as they develop local food systems.

The USDA defines a food desert as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and healthy food providers.

“One great idea is to one day a week bring fresh fruits and fresh vegetables into the neighborhood,” she said. “We want to connect the neighborhood to the development going on downtown. One way of doing this is to connect the farmers market (Jamestown Public Market) to the neighborhood.”

Other improvements to the park include adding new playground equipment and a pavilion for picnics, Bessette said. She said they are also collaborating with other organizations to also provide health care services like diabetes and blood pressure screenings. She added there are still many steps to be taken during the park’s renovation process. The timeline for the project calls for the revitalization process to continue through the summer of 2018.

“We’re are hoping to do some small things by the end of the summer like another public meeting that we want to do at the park,” she said.