By Kathy Chouteau
The Richmond City Council received a presentation May 26 from Pogo Park Executive Director Toody Maher about the organization’s plans for using an $8.5 million grant for the Harbour 8 Park Expansion project.
The presentation followed Pogo Park’s March announcement that, in partnership with the City of Richmond and The Conservation Fund, it had secured the highly competitive Prop 68 parks grant to expand and improve Harbour 8 Park on the Richmond Greenway.
Maher described Pogo Park as “a nonprofit that works with the City to transform dispirited city parks into beautiful spaces for children to play in and for the community to come together.”
During her presentation, Maher shared what her team, working with community residents and on behalf of the City, has accomplished to date at Harbour 8 Park.
Maher relayed to City Council how, in 2013, Pogo Park first identified and began cleaning up an area of the Richmond Greenway at Harbour Way and 8th St., and set about transforming it into what is now Harbour 8 Park.
As part of their extensive efforts, Pogo Park built both 100 ft. and a 500 ft. brick walls, the larger one featuring a mural; a spider web play structure for kids; a playground that includes a 14 ft. totem pole with eyes that light up at night; a miniature sports playing field with stadium lights (to be completed soon); and a community plaza. The team also has plans for a future bus stop on Harbour Way.
Collaboration played a key role in their progress. Pogo Park teamed up with RichmondBUILD on the larger wall and established a studio inside Richmond’s Scientific Art Studio to help them with their park builds, which were then completed by hand by community members. One of these studio projects was building an archway at the entrance way to Harbour 8 Park.
“Last year, once the grants for Prop 68 were announced, we really went to town and did seven days’ work out on the greenway to connect with members of the community to find out what they wanted to see—and then we created a master vision for how to continue to improve that space,” said Maher during her presentation.
Maher elaborated that, as part of the Harbour 8 Expansion project, “the city’s going to purchase a portion of land next to the Greenway to open up a new entry way on 9th St.” This will enable the expansion of the current Harbour 8 Park by acquiring land south of the park.
With the grant funding, the redesigned park will include a community hall, children’s play area, restroom, play area, picnic area, bike and walking paths, lighting, public art, security cameras and landscaping, according to documents provided to City Council by Public Works Director Yader A. Bermudez and Parks and Landscaping Superintendent Greg Hardesty.
In wrapping up, Maher shared a rendition of the vision for the $8.5 million expansion project and expressed her gratitude.
“I want to thank the city of Richmond for their partnership for [this] project and I also want to thank all the public parks team who worked so hard for this and I wanted to say thank you for the chance to share with you a little bit about this grant.”
Richmond City Councilmember Jael Myrick returned his gratitude to the Pogo Park executive director.
“I just want to thank you, Toody, and everybody who worked on this and to say that Pogo Park literally never ceases to amaze me. Every project you all do, the effort you put into it—literally having genuine community input, the ability to access funds, the ability to really bring these beautiful designs to our community and to the parts of our community that need it most…Thank you for doing it and all the best of luck…this is all just positive stuff for our community,” he said.