Children living in Chicago’s most heavily Latino neighborhoods have much less access to quality parks than white children, an analysis by WBEZ radio shows. The research mapped out the city’s 525 playgrounds by census tract.
However, the Chicago Park District has plans to upgrade 300 parks over the next five years. The city says that about 90 percent of children live within a half mile, or a 10 minute walk, of a park.
But WBEZ says that Latino children are 35 percent more likely than white children to live more than half a mile away from a playground. Jaemey Bush told the station that she was concerned about playground quality in her heavily Latino neighborhood of Little Village.
“It makes me really sad that these kids don’t have a chance to play on a playground,” Bush said. “That’s such an important part of being a kid and growing up and being healthy. We also have a lot of gang violence and kids getting into trouble. I feel like more playgrounds could contribute to solving some of those problems.”
Black and Latino children also have less access to high quality parks with rubber surfaces, and are more likely to live near parks with wood chips.
To their credit, Chicago officials say they are trying to close gaps with the Chicago Plays redevelopment initiative targeted at upgrading playground park equipment over the next few years. Upgrades are being prioritized based upon nominations made by community members via a petition. WBEZ raises concerns that not every community has residents who are able to pursue the time-intensive process of applying for the funds.
An earlier study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that Hispanic children need more opportunities for exercise in their communities and lacked safe “active spaces.” That study listed playgrounds, recreation centers, school gyms, and athletic fields as important spaces for children.