The Westminster Legacy Foundation is supporting the effort to repair and enhance the Irving Street Library Playground & Park by elevating the voices of the surrounding community through structured and fun engagement. WLF is connecting with community members in Historic Westminster - located in the southern part of the city - through in-person engagement sessions to garner feedback and recommendations for the reimagination and rebuild of the Irving Street Playground and Park. Arson claimed the playground in July 2022, and community voice has said they want a new playground themed around Arts & Exploration! This new playground will break ground in Summer 2023. Further discussions with the community have revealed insights for the City of Westminster to consider when reconfiguring the Park. WLF will continue to support community engagement through dialogue and creativity as we help amplify the voices of the community.
Our efforts continue as we try to help the community heal from the trauma caused by an intentional act of violence to this well-used and beloved outdoor space. Both the City of Westminster and the Foundation seek to lift and support community voice with ongoing authentic engagement endeavors as the division of Parks, Recreation & Libraries begins its reimagination of the park by adding new amenities that have been identified and recommended by the neighborhood residents. Beginning in late summer 2022, residents were invited to a BBQ, complete a survey and vote on designs for the new playground. Through dialogue with the Irving Street Library staff throughout the 2022 winter months, library goers and local residents made it clear that the first step for the park was to have a playground by summer. Everyone listened, and the new playground is almost ready to be installed.
With a planning grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, WLF in partnership with the City’s parks division has been able to host truly innovative, genuinely engaging meetings with the community to continue to explore the various elements that park and library goers would like to see in the space. Many, many residents from all walks of life and cultures dedicated many hours to the visioning process for the park. They shared their local knowledge, concerns, ideas and imagination toward a newly styled park that supports their viewpoints. Their ongoing passion and commitment to the long-term success of their neighborhood park – lasting for generations to come.
Historic Westminster boasts hard-working individuals and families along with older adults that have called Westminster home for many, many years. Recent demographic surveys show that most residents in the southern part of the city have only a high school diploma or GED. Many households struggle financially, even as the adults in the home work fulltime jobs. There is a very large Latinx - primarily of Mexican heritage – population along with significant numbers of Hmong and Nepali residents. These groups are not the usual participants in traditional community engagement efforts; however, through the sharing of food, fun, information, data and resources – there were many, many diverse members attending the public meetings – including preschool kids, young parents, longtime residents, older adults, Latino/as, Hmong, Austrians and Russians. Historic Westminster is rich in its cultural diversity. Residents want to ensure all the cultures are incorporated into the forthcoming enhancements of the Irving Street Park.
Through a series of activities centered around play and fun, community members shared their thoughts on what their neighborhood’s current and future play identities are as well as the outside forces impacting the park, such as, security, safety and lighting. Attendees also expressed their hopes, inspiration and values that support their ideas for the park. Some of the tools used to elucidate the community members were various picture cards representing anything or nothing as interpreted by the user, creating headlines and bylines for the park’s future distinctiveness and collaging. The use of visual tools helped imaginations soar and allowed for complete participation by all the attendees. Even though there were three different languages being spoken, everyone understood each other because of the visual and artistic aspects of the meetings. More community engagement sessions will happen throughout the rest of the year as the Westminster Legacy Foundation persists in its efforts to amplify the community’s voice.
Some of the ideas and aspirations for the park included:
- A dedicated space for multicultural activities and games
- Enhancing the existing nature with more trees, plants and lots of flowers
- Adding another community garden
- A skatepark for teens
- An amphitheater or stage for musical and other cultural performances
- More seating and lighting
- Increased interactions with the Library regarding different aspects of the park
- Events that highlight the neighborhood cultures and ethnicities
- Farmers markets and so much more!!
Currently, the Park is hosting a recreational pop-up activity and instruction for the trapeze. There is an actual trapeze with people to show folks how to use it!!
The Irving Street Library and Park are a true communal gathering place for both young and old alike. Students come after school to do homework and play – there are 4 schools within 2 blocks of the library. Young families and older adults enjoy the park during the day, and Growing Home, a nonprofit serving the community, tends to a community garden with their participants and volunteers.
For more information on community engagement or the Irving Street Playground & Park, please email Natalie at email@example.com.