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Local non-profit awarded $500k grant to address park access inequity in Springfield, Ohio

The Grand Avenue Family Park in South Springfield.
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO
The Grand Avenue Family Park in South Springfield.

A Springfield non-profit recently received a $500,000 grant to address park access inequities in Black and brown neighborhoods.

The Conscious Connect is a non-profit addressing urban education and neighborhood revitalization in predominantly Black and brown communities in South Springfield.

One of its goals is to make sure anyone living in South Springfield is within a 10-minute walk from a park. The non-profit has already worked with the Clark County land bank to repurpose vacant lots in neighborhoods into parks.

Studies report predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods lack access to green spaces. Over 100 million people nationwide do not have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of their home.

Yet, reports show public green spaces, playgrounds and gardens are vital to mental health, and environmental benefits in communities.

Karlos Marshall is the co-founder of Conscious Connect. Marshall — who grew up in Springfield — said he wants to encourage other organizations and community members to build more of these parks.

“These parks and green spaces are so critical they're really a social determinant of health outcomes,” Marshall said. “We also know that green spaces improve outcomes around education, community building, social cohesion not only for our children and our youth, but also critically for our elders.”

The grant comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s People, Parks, and Power initiative. The non-profit has already established four parks around South Springfield. And has plans to expand into West Dayton.

With the grant money, the non-profit plans to hire two new staff.

Moses Mbeseha, who is also the non-profits co-founder, said the group will be working with groups and the community to change city policy like making sure new housing developments have parks and making it easier to turn vacant lots into greens paces.

“Bringing in more partners and shareholders and being super active and engaging more residents, and talking with our policymakers about things that we can do in the future,” Mbeseha said. “So I'm really excited for what we can do around park access.”

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America. He particularly covers the efforts by local organizations and government agencies to address a problem that has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.