Niagara for All: Improving the Park System for Local Children
Building Healthy Communities
March 16, 2018
The New York State County Health Rankings place Niagara County at 59 of the 62 counties in New York State overall.
According to the most recent Niagara County Health Assessment, more than one-third of residents in Niagara County report being physically inactive, with 17.6% of children overweight and 22.2% obese, placing children and adolescents at early risk for chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Investment in high-quality opportunities for physical activity in the community is needed. In September 2017, Niagara Falls Community Development (NFCD) led the first-ever participatory budgeting process in Niagara Falls, an NYHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund community, focusing on the city’s park system via the allocation of $275,000 of federal funding. Niagara Falls residents cast their votes to prioritize which parks should receive funding, translating neighborhood ideas into tangible results. In 2018, NYHealth awarded NFCD a grant to support improvements in two high-need parks prioritized by Niagara Falls residents: Liberty Park and Hyde Park.
Under this grant, NFCD supported programming and improvements at the two parks to increase physical opportunities for the children of Niagara Falls and encourage healthy living. NFCD worked to turn the underused Liberty Park into a state-of-the-art athletic playground, with programming directed at children. NFCD worked in tandem with the Niagara Falls School District to implement its physical education curriculum as programming at the park. At Hyde Park—the second largest municipal park in the State—NFCD worked to revitalize a space that has largely been neglected. Funding helped create a protected play space for children and an environment that is specifically designed to promote socialization and build confidence in children. The space features a 15 play components within 5 separate play areas, all connected by a ramp and built on custom safety surfacing. An additional 12 ground-level activities were designed to serve and engage both the mobility and behavioral needs of the local children. This grant also supported engagement and outreach efforts at both locations through park ambassadors, summer youth employees from the Niagara Falls Department of Public Works and Parks, and public health campaigns in Niagara Falls, such as NFL Play 60.