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The Latino Urban Forum and residents of Boyle Heights create the Evergreen Cemetery Jogging Path to promote a safe, pedestrian friendly environment

Evergreen Cemetery Jogging Path was created by residents and members of the Latino Urban Forum. What start out as a campaign the fix the sidewalks and cracks turned into a major infustructure improvement for residents in East Los Angeles. The Evergreen Jogging Path Coalition worked extensively with city officials to make capital improvements for an area that the community was using as a jogging path. The EJPC was successful in reaching its goal and eventually replaced cracked sidewalks with 1.5 miles of continuous, rubberized jogging path surrounding the Evergreen Cemetery, a landmark situated in the center of the community. Community organizing efforts began in 2002 and the path was dedicated in June 2003.

Background: Boyle Heights, California is a small, densely populated urban community east of downtown Los Angeles. The 91,000 residents of Boyle Heights (US Census, 2000) are predominantly Spanish-speaking / bilingual with about three-quarters of residents born outside of the United States, of Mexican decent or from other Latin American countries (LA Department of City Planning). The median income for residents of Boyle Heights is just under $21,500 (US Census, 2000). Boyle Heights is a California State Enterprise Zone, is designated as a Federal Empowerment Zone and is within a City of Los Angeles Redevelopment zone.

Description: The Evergreen Cemetery provided a convenient location for residents to walk and jog within their community; however, its sidewalks were cracked and broken, with the EJPC documenting holes in the sidewalk measuring ‘half a foot deep or more’, ‘root systems that have caused the sidewalk to buckle’ ‘a ½ foot gully’ caused by weeds and erosion, trash strewn along adjacent dirt paths, and ‘few pedestrian crosswalks’ or traffic stops on perimeter streets to protect the pedestrians that were using the space.

Through the organizing efforts of the Evergreen Jogging Path Coalition, community members and the volunteer organization approached city council member, Nick Pacheco with a clear statement about the problems and their proposed solutions. The council member was instrumental in getting $800,000 to the Boyle Heights community to replace the cracked and broken sidewalks with continuous, rubberized jogging path that would be safe and comfortable for pedestrians and joggers.

Key Players: The Evergreen Jogging Path Coalition, including Diana Terrango, Nadine Diaz and Ullyses Sanchez, active and dedicated residents of Boyle Heights provided the people-power to collect data, conduct meetings and meet with Los Angeles City council member Nick Pacheco, who helped raise the funds to carry the project through. Now that the path is built, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the city council and residents provide in-kind resources and money to support the upkeep and maintenance of the path.

Outcomes: The efforts of the EJPC demonstrate that sidewalks can be used for recreation. Although James Rojas, Co-Founder of the Latino Urban Forum says conducting formal “observational studies of activity on the jogging path would be great, there’s just no money to do it”. What is clear to Rojas is that walking has increased from about 200/ day in the area to well over 1000 people per day using the path for jogging, walking and socializing. Importantly, he says, this effort “improves a place to exercise and socialize, in their community. It gives the residents a stronger sense of identity and a real sense of pride—now everyone points it out.” Once every two months, community members come together for a regularly scheduled clean-up day around the path. The community members’ clean-up efforts are complemented through funding from the City Council and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) who provide money and time, including personnel, trash bags and brooms.

Words of Advice: Start with observation. Understand, ‘how is the community operating?’‘what are its shortfalls?’ and ‘what are the needs?’ We had to conduct a lot of meetings, get the ‘man’ power, collect data, do research and get a handle on where the money was. Use creativity.

The Everygreen Cemetery Jogging Path illustrates how the he Latino Community is using and redefining urban space is their communities.
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