The city of Long Beach has miles of coastline and more than 170 parks … a plethora of places for children and families to get outside and enjoy nature. But caring for this vast expanse of property, and its structures, is expensive.
In the midst of government budget cuts in 1985, a few concerned citizens started an organization called Partners of Parks (PoP). The goal of the group was to support and preserve Long Beach parks. More than three decades later, budget issues still exist and the financial needs of Long Beach parks continue to grow.
Partners of Parks is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public benefit corporation that works with and supports parks, recreation and marine (PRM) programs and facilities in the city of Long Beach. This enormous task is carried out by a small, but committed work force: two part-time employees (the current and former executive directors) and one volunteer.
PoP’s June 2018 Strategic Plan Outline clarified the organization’s vision and goals, stating an intent to manage strategic partnerships and seek development opportunities that support PRM activities, especially benefiting Long Beach teens, seniors, and economically disadvantaged children. Last September, Trinka Rowsell was hired as PoP’s executive director. She said she was charged with expanding the organization, raising more funds, and creating more programs for youth.
“People need places to be outside, but many of our parks are old and in need of expensive remodels,” Rowsell said. “Ideally, PoP can help fill the need for things that PRM can’t do because of budget issues.”
Although it is not a household name, PoP works behind the scenes in many areas. The group helps fund memorials, like the Lone Sailor Statue that was added to Bluff Park in 2004. The organization also offers dedicated benches and memorial bricks to honor individuals around the city.
Through its community partnerships with organizations like the Port of Long Beach and Signal Hill Petroleum, PoP supports a variety of activities that include Movies in the Parks and Community Concerts. By far the most popular events PoP helps with are the open-air performances by the Municipal Band.
“The Municipal Band is in its 100th year,” Rowsell said. “Their concerts are very well loved and always draw huge attendance.”
PoP also offers after-school and summer opportunities for youth, like the STEM Mad Science program at Drake Park. Mad Science will soon become available at Cesar E. Chavez Park as well, thanks to support from the Long Beach Judicial Partners.
A very important venture by PoP is the Youth Scholarship Program. Currently, about 100 families receive money for use in classes and camps. PoP has set an ambitious goal of giving out 5,000 youth scholarships by the year 2025.
“We want to provide funds that deliver services to more people in the community,” Rowsell said.
Small community organizations, like Exceptional Day of Play, benefit by partnering with PoP. According to Rowsell, PoP can help fledgling groups with insurance, certificates and permits, thereby allowing them to devote their funds to programming costs.
To fund its work, PoP relies on individual and corporate donations. To this end, PoP is working to build public awareness of its goals and needs. On Sept. 19, the organization will be participating in Long Beach Gives Day, 24 hours devoted to fundraising for local nonprofits. Also in September, PoP will host its second annual fundraiser, “Sowing the Seeds,” at the El Dorado Nature Center. This event, which will also honor the 50th anniversary of the Nature Center, is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14.
In the future, Rowsell said she hopes to organize regular monthly park cleanups. She hopes such events will not only improve park beauty, but will also foster community connection and engagement.
To make a donation or learn more about Partners of Parks, go to www.partnersofparks.org.