Parks Board Supports Park and Play Reboot

(Photo courtesy the city of Burbank) - The Park and Play vehicle brought games to this year’s Burbank Police Department National Night out event.

First published in the Sept. 10 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Members of the Parks and Recreation Board expressed support for the reboot of the Park and Play Mobile Recreation Pilot Program during a meeting Thursday evening. Nostalgic of the late 1990s, the program, formerly known as Kids at Play, brings recreational activities on wheels to underserved Burbank cul-de-sacs and parks.
The Park and Play Mobile Recreation program, formerly known as Kids at Play, features a sporty utility truck filled with sports and play equipment. The truck is staffed by the Parks and Recreation departments’s sports staff who engage kids of all ages in activities.
The original program was sponsored by the Burbank Police Department as part of a community policing initiative. However, due to loss of funding and staffing challenges, the Kids at Play program was cancelled in 2012 after more than a decade of service.
However, necessitated by the lack of recreational opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the board gave support for a reboot of the program, as the idea solved the issues of park access and transportation issues.
“We are talking about two working parent households, limited child care resources, limited park space, and access. If you live next to the Olive Rec Center, fantastic — you can just walk across the street,” said Diego Cevallos, deputy director of Park, Recreation and Community Services. “But what we’ve identified is that lacking transportation, kids being homebound … it was really important that we bring services to them, and during the pandemic, there was a very stark contrast with folks that had the resources.”
During the pandemic, the parks department began providing flexible programs at local facilities to kick start physical activity in the community. The Department reported increases in participation at the DeBell Golf Course, the Burbank Tennis Center and the Verdugo Aquatic Facility.
Still, staff recognized the value of bringing programs and activities to underserved neighborhoods, “particularly those communities with dual-income households, limited childcare access, park amenities, and transportation resources,” according to a staff report.
During the April 5 Burbank Athletic Federation Board Meeting, the board provided support for an $8,000 budget allocation for the program, including the vinyl graphic vehicle wrap and for the purchase of sports equipment. The city was able to use an existing city vehicle.
“With a fresh new look and a new name, the Park and Play Mobile Recreation Vehicle was ready to make its debut,” staff said.
On Aug. 7, in partnership with the Burbank YMCA, Park and Play provided a play environment while nearly 200 students picked up free backpacks during the annual Back-to-School event.
During the first four months of the Park and Play pilot program, staff secured initial funding to launch the program, identified neighborhoods in need, purchased supplies and equipment and developed multiple community-based partnerships like Girls On The Run, a nonprofit dedicated to helping girls recognize their individual strengths through physical activities.
“Addressing the systemic barriers is so critical in our city and I am absolutely proud of it,” said Parks and Recreation Board member Myeisha Gamiño.