News & Success Stories


News // August 15, 2013

Harborside Park: Creating a Safe Park through Collective Action

Dedicated on April 29, 2006, Harborside Park was the first park built on the west side of Chula Vista in more than 25 years. Unlike most parks in Chula Vista, Harborside Park was built on a vacant lot in a commercial area.  Two large businesses, a school and San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) South Region Family Resource Center border the park.  Through the Adopt-a-Park program in the City of Chula Vista, the four entities made a commitment to maintain the park for families and children to play outside safely.

Many families and their children use the park during the day.  After dark, however, individuals began congregating in certain areas of the park to conduct illegal activities, including drug use and gang activity.  In time, they arrived earlier at the park and caused families to retreat to the small playground at the front of the park.  This section of the park also sees a lot of foot traffic from people coming to and from the County’s HHSA South Region Center.

On April 3, 2013, almost six years after Harborside Park opened, the South Region Walking Club, formed by a group of staff at the HHSA South Region Center dedicated to improving the culture from within, was re-launched.  Immediately, the walking group members expressed their concerns about safety in the park.  They reached out to the Live Well San Diego South Region Leadership Team, which was formed in 2010 as a coalition of public health agencies, local governments, school districts, health care organizations and professionals, and community-based organizations to promote policy, environment, and systems changes that create safe, healthy, and equitable communities.

Members of the Leadership Team convened a special meeting to address the safety concerns in the park.  The City of Chula Vista Public Works and Recreation Departments, Chula Vista Community Collaborative, Harborside Elementary, WalMart, Costco and HHSA all joined together to develop short, medium and long term goals to improve Harborside Park.

Through collective action, the partners quickly removed extra fencing between Harborside School and Costco and sent extra teams to clean and maintain the park.  The group also worked with the Recreation Department to provide youth sports opportunities through the Rec and Roll Van and advocated with the Police Department to respond rapidly to calls and take into custody people doing illegal activities in the park. Moreover, the City of Chula Vista’s Buff-a-Block program also was able to bring a youth group to remove graffiti and clean up the gazebo area.

The Walking Club now has 70 members walking who monitor the park daily, and the special workgroup convenes quarterly to check on the progress of their goals.  Through collective engagement of organizations and businesses in every sector, Harborside Park has been transformed from a danger zone to a healthy and safe place for children and families.