Improving Access to a Modesto Park
Santa Clara University Professor Iris Stewart-Frey and SCU student researchers are collaborating with the Tuolumne River Trust (Modesto Office) and Catholic Charities Stockton to plan and implement an extension of the Tuolumne River Regional Park in California’s Central Valley, using a participatory process that includes the surrounding communities.
Parks and green spaces along rivers are not only important to the health of aquatic ecosystems and riparian zones, but also for the health of the surrounding communities. They provide opportunities for recreation, and connections between the community and the natural world. Under a warmer climate and in areas plagued by air pollution, parks provide cooler and cleaner air, and they filter contaminants from runoff before they enter a river. Previous work by Stewart and her students has indicated that Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities (DUCs) in Modesto have less access to parks, and that parks close to DUCs have fewer amenities than those located in other areas.
The project will expand the current string of parks known as the Tuolumne River Regional Park Carpenter Road parcel, a currently undeveloped lot next to a DUC that has formerly served as a waste site. Together with the community, Stewart and her collaborators aim to revitalize the parcel based on community needs.
The Tuolumne River Trust is leading the community engagement in the planning and development process, conducting outreach to residents, businesses, and organizations to participate in creating a revitalization action plan for the area. The Trust will convene community meetings, and teach residents how to use online tools and applications to inform the plan, including the City of Modesto’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Department’s online tool.
Stewart-Frey and her students are developing a community survey and maps, a virtual park audit for community stakeholders, and a digital story map. The community survey and outreach will educate residents about park benefits and understand their ideas and priorities. The park audit will help residents understand barriers to access as well as inspect the existing infrastructure.
The partnership is supported by a California Environmental Protection Agency environmental justice grant to the Trust, which includes a sub-award to Santa Clara University to support the student research. Stewart-Frey, a hydrologist in SCU’s Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, has collaborated frequently on projects examining water availability, water quality, and climate change in the Central Valley.
Photo: A section of the Tuolumne River Regional Park in Modesto (photo by I. Stewart-Frey)