A recent policy brief documents the ongoing struggle of Baldwin Hills residents – who live in a five-square-mile community located seven miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles – to expand their parkland and thereby improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and children. To achieve this goal, the enclave’s largely African American and minority population supports efforts to transform the 1,000-acre Inglewood oil field, which has blighted the central core of the metropolitan area, into a two-mile-square urban state park.
They also urge Los Angeles County officials to fulfill a promise made in the late 1990s to the park-poor, environmentally hard-hit community to create green space that would greatly enhance the quality of life for residents.
Finally, they make a strong case for protecting human health, the environment, and equal justice in the Baldwin Hills community, park, and oil field.
The authors present an in-depth discussion of the multifaceted benefits of parkland. These benefits cover a wide spectrum, including fun and recreation; physical, psychological, and social health; youth development; economic vitality; climate justice; habitat protection; and sustainable regional planning.
The authors also cite research findings that underscore the importance of regular physical activity – facilitated by parks and recreation resources – in fostering child development and preventing childhood obesity and associated chronic health conditions.
The policy brief recounts Baldwin Hills residents’ efforts to block other attempts to place toxic-waste and polluting sites (a power plant and a garbage dump) in their community. It also discusses the adverse health effects suffered by residents, which are believed to be linked to the Inglewood oil field operated by Plains Exploration and Production Co., a Houston-based oil company.
In a broader sense, the authors say, the Baldwin Hills situation reflects the pattern of unfair disparities in access to park and recreation resources that exists elsewhere in Los Angeles County, Southern California, and across the nation. These disparities, they contend, are based on race, color or national origin, as well as poverty and income.