The health of a community has much more to do with policies and opportunities than it does with doctors and clinics.
To be very clear, our health care professionals play a vital role in the prosperity and success of our city. We certainly all value our health care professionals and the jobs they do to help take care of us, but to truly improve the health of Fresno, we need to start looking at health differently.
Earlier this year, a study in the journal Child Development found that young people who engage in volunteerism, voting or activism are more likely to have a higher income and education than those who do not. This further supports what many public health professionals have been advancing for years – being civically engaged is a positive behavior that contributes to wellness. In short, voting is good for your health.
This election cycle offers many opportunities for you to use your vote in support of health – yours and your neighbors’. We need to improve the health of our entire city by implementing policies that create more green space and provide basic amenities to every Fresnan in order to ensure we all thrive.
On the issue of parks, the Fresno City Council approved a Parks Master Plan earlier this year. This was the first time in nearly 30 years that a plan for parks has been updated. This master plan essentially captured what we can all clearly see: we need more parks and our park system needs investment!
We’ve all seen the reports that rank Fresno near the bottom compared with other cities when it comes to parks. We’re no longer last, and the only reason why we’ve climbed the list is because the community made sure their voice was heard. This has led to the formation of Fresno for Parks – a grassroots coalition of Fresnans – working to secure voter signatures for the Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative to help provide funding to maintain and improve our parks, while creating jobs for youth and veterans, along with other community benefits.
Parks are so much more than simply a place to play, hold a picnic or spend time with family. Our health depends on parks. Quality parks provide public safety, help prevent heart disease and diabetes, and will make our city more attractive to private investors, entrepreneurs and companies.
In addition, with proposition 68 on the ballot in June, Fresno truly has an opportunity to transform its park system. Proposition 68 will invest $4 billion in the coming years to tackle some of California’s – and Fresno’s – most important water, park, and natural resource needs.
Proposition 68 includes $1.3 billion for parks and recreation projects, most of which would be used to build or improve local parks. But in order for the City of Fresno to be eligible to receive funding, the city will need to provide some match dollars.
We can’t rewrite history, but we can write the present for a better and healthier future. We know that the city parks budget was decimated and never made whole. We know that eight out of 10 parks in the city are in very bad shape. And we know that three out of four Fresnans support more funding for parks.
Fresnans have laid out a vision and plan to transform our city. Proposition 68 will provide much needed dollars to help build new parks and improve our current parks, while the Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative will provide maintenance and recreation dollars. Combined, these two initiatives create a new path for Fresno that will result in a green, clean and thriving city that we can all be proud of.
I, along with thousands of Fresno residents, want to be on the right side of history. I plan to head to the polls on June 5 and again on November 6 and cast my vote for parks and our future. Will you join me?
Sandra Celedon is a public health practitioner and member of the Parks Now Coalition - a broad coalition of experts and community leaders from across California who are concerned about the state of our public parks.