From Gang Haven to Little Slice of Heaven

Before last autumn, every time someone would try to clean the graffiti at Maywood’s Pixley Park, they would be threatened with death by the gangs that hung out there.

“When I was hired, I was told never to go to Pixley,” recalled Aldo Perez, community services manager for the city of Maywood. “It was so dangerous.”

That all changed last October 23. Since that day, Perez said, there has not been a single letter of graffiti scrawled on a wall, a drug needle found or a crime committed.

What could change a park so quickly from a gang haven to a little slice of heaven?

Children.

With the help of First 5 LA, Amigos De Los Rios and the city of Maywood, Pixley Park was completely redesigned into a “Tot Park and Trails” project. This provided young children with swings, a slide, jungle gym, and whirly whirl to sit and spin on. And while the park was originally created to help address the concern over childhood obesity, adults have found it to be helpful, as well.

“There wasn’t anything for the adults to do,” Perez said. “Now there’s a walking track. And obesity is a really big thing in Maywood.”

Another noticeable difference is the missing bathrooms, where the gangs used to conduct business.

“We made sure you could see front to back of the park,” Perez said. “Now there is no place to hide.”

Once it was redesigned, neighborhood parents quickly took ownership of the park. They brought their small children to play, walked the track, reported any suspicious activity and made sure that someone from the city came to close the park after-hours.

“The renovation of Pixley Park has transformed the community of Maywood,” said Karen Robertson-Fall, First 5 LA program officer. “The park was formerly a site filled with crime and gang violence. Today, it is a safe place for families and young children to play. First 5 LA’s investment in Pixley Park will be sustained for generations thanks to the community’s involvement and their ownership of the park.”

First 5 LA created the Tot Parks and Trails Initiative with $10 million in grants to seven countywide groups with the intention of creating an incentive for both community-based organizations and local agencies to develop or improve play spaces, playgrounds and stroller trails specifically for young children. First 5 LA funds will support 33 projects covering 23 cities and neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County.

Most recently, the city of Bellflower celebrated the grand opening of Thompson Park on Thursday, while groundbreaking for a new Tot Parks and Trails project took place for Brookshire Park in Downey two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the residents of Maywood will continue to enjoy their little slice of heaven that is Pixley Park.

“I think everybody is very happy about it, said Mary Mariscal, a local girl scout troop leader who uses the park. “You don’t have to be worrying about your kids seeing the drugs or drive-by shootings. You don’t see anything like that anymore.”

 

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