Healthy parks have tremendous power that we may not see, but we all definitely feel it.

Well-maintained parks help prevent a variety of health issues by providing children and families safe places to play and exercise; while parks promote health, they are also good for business. 

Building new parks, improving those that already exist and making sure all parks have quality programs are a tremendous financial boost for any city. For example, in Oakland, the East Bay Regional Park District is estimated to stimulate about $254 million annually in park-related purchases, according to the American Planning Association. And according to a study conducted by Gerald A. Carino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as reported in CityLab, “the more beautiful a city is [created with parks and other amenities], the more successful it is at attracting jobs and investment...”

It’s clear that a healthy park system draws new businesses, raises property values and creates a greater sense of community, so it is welcome news that the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently approved spending $1.59 million on various park projects across the county. Specifically, Casa Loma Park, which is dear to my heart as I grew up near there, will receive $125,000 for lighting and shade structures.

We are encouraged by this investment, and now our advocacy must continue. County officials said this investment was due, in part, to the work of Comunidades Unidas, a collaborative comprised of many local residents from Greenfield, Lamont and Arvin alongside grassroots organizations. I’m not a member of this group, but my mother and I, along with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, attended several meetings with county staff and let our views be known.

Now, let’s keep this momentum going. No question: lighting and shade will make a tremendous difference at Casa Loma by giving parents peace of mind knowing their children are a little bit safer. The next step is to address the excess speeding that happens on the streets surrounding the park and the nearby elementary school. Finally, Casa Loma could use an investment in more community-centered efforts, like picnics and youth programs.

We the people have the power to do this, especially as we understand what parks really mean to a neighborhood. Imagine how our county would flourish with a little more investment in a quality parks system.

In the budget that was just approved, the Sheriff's Office and fire department will receive $639 million, an increase of $23 million from last year. The total budget for the county is $2.9 billion. We all want to be safe, and parks play an important role. In fact, a quality park is a doctor’s and a police officer’s best friend.

I, along with many other residents, are encouraged by this budget and what it will mean for our parks and the overall health of Kern County. Meanwhile, we look forward to even greater investment in neighborhoods in the years ahead.

Johanna Coronado is a recent graduate from UCLA. She was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in Bakersfield and has lived near the Casa Loma community for most of her life. She is currently an associate for public affairs working for Troy Hightower from TDH Associates International.