RTC SpringSummer 2015 Issue_final - page 17

regionally. One of the big local groups
is Friends of the Richmond Greenway, a
constellation of all the local groups work-
ing on the greenway today.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been
incredibly resourceful, especially with the
acquisition of the last piece of the gre-
enway [in collaboration with e Trust
for Public Land]. is involves working
with the railroad that owns the corri-
dor. ey’ve also given us key knowledge
about railroad lines and how to transform
them—the nuts and bolts of rail-trail
Have you come across any unexpected
challenges in your advocacy efforts?
How have you overcome them?
is is happening so fast that some people
from the community are reacting nega-
tively. ey are a small but vocal group.
at’s been a shock to me. Even though
the transformation of the greenway will
help them and the entire community in
the long run, they’re worried that some
trail users will end up in their neighbor-
hood, committing crimes.
ere’s also the money piece. In the
private sector, if you have a good idea
and a good team, you get venture capital
money to fund your idea. In the public
sector, it’s difficult to raise money to keep
up with the opportunities at hand. at’s
a frustrating and hard piece of the puzzle.
You just have to keep your eye on the
prize and move ahead. ere will always
be some friction. You need to say to com-
munity members and funders, “Look how
far we’ve come, and look at the transfor-
mational possibilities yet to come with
further support and investment.”
What’s the most important thing people
can do to support parks and trails in the
United States?
Adopt a part of a trail and start to take
care of it. You can’t count on government
or anyone else to come in and do it. Don’t
wait! Just do it yourself.
Amy Kapp is editor-in-chief of
Rails to Trails
ing them and
the surrounding
streets each day.
When a whole
park is clean, people think twice about
dropping a candy wrapper on the ground.
Safe, green and clean, with things to
do—that’s the model.
In 2011, you launched the Unity Park
project on the Richmond Greenway, fol-
lowed by the adjacent Harbour-8 Project.
What put the greenway on your radar?
I was looking at parks, and I stumbled
upon the Richmond Greenway. I walked
the whole thing, and then I went home and
literally cried because I realized its potential
power. Very few cities have a linear park
going through their most hardcore urban
neighborhoods. But the greenway wasn’t
maintained well; there wasn’t much money
to maintain it. I asked some of the Latino
families in the neighborhood, “What do
you call this path?” ey said, “El Baldio,”
which means, “the abandoned place.”
I recognized the impact this space could
have if it was transformed. It could trans-
form the lives of tens of thousands of people
living within a quarter mile of it. is was
an opportunity of a lifetime. So I did what
I always do: I started researching. I looked
at greenways such as the High Line in New
York City that have been vehicles to help
launch the renaissance of cities.
Pogo Park and our friends at MIG,
a Berkeley-based planning and design
firm, wrote a grant proposal to the state of
California for the city of Richmond and got
$5 million to develop two pieces of land
adjacent to the trail into what is now the
Unity Park project. en we started map-
ping the whole greenway. For the first time,
we took a look at all the community proj-
ects existing along the route to see potential
We then wrote a second grant proposal
Greening the Last Mile of
the Richmond Greenway
got another $727,000 from the
state of California to develop
the last part of the greenway.
What we are trying to do now
is to empower local residents
and groups, those who know
the neighborhood best, so
they can plan, design, build and manage the
[space] themselves.
How has the Richmond Greenway support-
ed your ongoing work and larger vision for
the local community? Has it affected your
e one thing that’s really hit me is the
natural longing of people from the com-
munity for places to gather. is concept is
discussed in “ e Death and Life of Great
American Cities” by Jane Jacobs—one of
the bibles of urban planning.
More than anything else, people want
a place to go sit and gather and be com-
fortable and watch other people, and the
Richmond Greenway is the perfect place
for that.
e streets around it are hard streets.
ey are blighted. ey are treeless. ere
is a high level of violence. But you’ve got
this Garden of Eden in the middle; it has
so much potential to be a vibrant space that
can satisfy the needs of the community.
In collaboration with Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy and a team of others,
you’re leading an advocacy effort for the
Richmond Greenway’s expansion to close
a trail gap. What motivated you to get
involved at this level, and what will the
end result be?
I started to map the greenway and all
the projects that were happening in and
around it. Nobody had done this in an
extensive way. I talked to every group
that started a project there; I looked at
the projects and looked at the gaps, and I
asked myself, “Who can fill them?”
We brought a whole group together…
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, e Trust for
Public Land, the city of Richmond…and
all the folks who were working on trails
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