At a public elementary school in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, a playground that used to be a barren asphalt lot is now a green space filled with plants and trees—and when school isn’t in session, it’s open to anyone in the neighborhood to use as a park. It’s one example of a transformation happening at schools across the country, and a new report finds that it could be a good way to give people access to parks in neighborhoods where green space is lacking.
The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps schools and cities create “shared-use” agreements for playground space, calculated that if all schoolyards in the U.S. were opened to the public during nonschool hours, nearly 20 million Americans who don’t currently live near parks would suddenly be a short walk from one.
In a city east of Los Angeles called Baldwin Park, only around a third of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park (in a park-filled city like Washington, D.C., by contrast, 97.5% of residents live near parks). If local playgrounds were converted to shared use as parks, the number of residents in Baldwin Park with easy park access would jump to more than 90%. Now that’s what we call simple, yet effective.