March 02, 2022

Grace June Hardy

Phoenix turns dangerous park into community treasure

After years as a park riddled with crime, the community came together to transform John F. & Mary P. Long Homestead Park into a community treasure.

City Councilwoman Betty Guardado, Dist. 5, spoke at the tree planting and WalkPHX event designed to reactivate and revitalize John F. & Mary P. Long Homestead Park in the heart of central West Phoenix earlier this month. The event was designed to create a safe and positive environment for more community and family involvement.

Guardado, along with Park Rx, a part of Maricopa County Department of Public Health, the Arizona Community Tree Council, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate care and planting of trees, and others, worked together to arranged the event.

This event is the fifth “reactivation” event Guardado has hosted, hoping to revitalize the parks in Phoenix, District five.


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Homestead Park has been a haven for criminals, drug users and the homeless. It has seen challenges with high crime rates in and around the park and evidence of harmful activity in its restrooms.

Dan Wilson, director of communications for the city of Phoenix, said crime statistics for the area in and around Homestead Park is a complicated and slow process.

Guardado talked about safe parks for children and families to enjoy.

“As a mom of a 5-year-old who loves running around the parks, and an 11-year-old, I can understand tremendously the need to having {sic} good, clean parks. Being able to have trees, shade and places where our children can enjoy,” Guardado said.

Guardado thanked Park Rx for hosting the clean-up event.

Spending just over $5,000, Park Rx was able to donated and plant 48 trees in Homestead Park, which was all made possible by a grant held by the Arizona Community Tree Council funded by the Vitalyst Health Foundation.

Yasmin Zavarce with Park Rx serves as a liaison between health services and the community. She spoke on behalf of the company, providing information as to what their initiative is all about.

“Our program has been helping communities transform by making lasting changes to the environment in which people live, work and play,” Zavarce said.

Park Rx is a joint project between the Maricopa County Department of Public Health’s AZ HealthZone (SNAP Education) and the Arizona Community Tree Council, with support from Vitalyst Health Foundation and Keep Phoenix Beautiful, according to its website.

According to Zavarce, Park Rx resonates with people looking to benefit from an active lifestyle and improve their social wellness.

“Finding time and ways to connect with people from the same neighborhood also gives a positive purpose in their life,” Zavarce said.

City Council Phoenix Parks and Recreation Director Cynthia Aguilar also recognized the Parks and Recreation team.

“I wanted to thank our team that has been out here, but also who helps take care of over 185 parks across the entire city,” Aguilar said.

The attendees got to experience a new walking path, accompanied by Guardado, who unveiled the WalkPHX sign which shows the route of the path and how long it takes to complete.

The walking loop is one-fourth of a mile, including directions on where to start and which direction is the safest to walk.

The community members were taught how to properly plant and level a tree by the City of Phoenix. Families and children gathered around different holes and began digging, watering, and leveling the trees.

“We are gonna make sure that we put this park to work,” Guardado said.