Congratulations to the Scranton Area Foundation and the group of collaborating organizations that had the vision to apply for a grant to the Pennsylvania Humanities Council to create a pocket park — and the skills necessary to be awarded a sought-after grant.
With more luck and on-the-ground experience, Scranton might be able create a system of such parks.
According to a study by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, “distressed neighborhoods where vacant lots have been converted into small parks and community green spaces are associated with reduced crime when compared to neighborhoods with unimproved vacant lots.”
The group, also comprising the Lackawanna County Library System, Lackawanna Heritage Valley, NeighborWorks NEPA, United Neighborhood Centers, United Way and the University of Scranton, is called, for the sake of this project, the Neighborhood Collaborative.
It was awarded a grant by the Humanities Council to support the development of a pocket park in West Scranton.
It turns out that the collaborative’s proposal was the only one selected out of a possible 70 — a testament to the skills and commitment of this team of citizens. Not only will West Scranton benefit from the $50,000 grant, but the entire city and region will be better for this projectdesigned to improve the quality of life in the community.
And at the same time that we are benefiting, we are providing a model for the Humanities Council in its new strategy for bringing humanistic projects to people in communities around the state.
The park, in keeping with the requirements of the grant, is designed not only to “keep the kids off the streets,” but to enrich the life of the neighborhood with a well-designed, people-friendly space and an ongoing array of educational and entertaining programs.
Kudos goes to the Humanities Council for expanding its mission by reaching into neighborhoods, helping to create environments that serve as social anchors in their communities, enabling people — old and young and of diverse backgrounds — to get to know each other, to get used to each other and to respect each other for their commonalities and their differences.
In addition, the park will also strengthen our democracy.
Public space is as necessary to a democracy as a constitution. It is the place where people can gather to discuss common issues, become familiar with diverse neighbors and solve problems. From ancient Athens to 21st century Scranton, public space makes the city. It creates community. It fosters a sense of responsibility for others and gives people a place they can call their own.
Here we have a small local project that is imbued with the spirit of community; it comes to us as a gift. It requires us to measure up to its demands.
It is projects such as this that we should nurture because collectively, they help us — ordinary citizens — to choose our future.
Publication Date: July 14, 2014