Park positives

As promised, some positives to say about parks to follow up on the previous park post.

Cesar Chavez Plaza: The park always has people in it. Yes, some complain that it is the wrong (homeless) people, but I think a park full of people is a good park. The park hosts special events such as Concert in the Park, and has a seasonal farmers market. And it finally again has a restaurant. Too high-end for many of the people who use the park, but a positive nevertheless.

Roosevelt Park: The real strength of this park, in my opinion, is the basketball courts. I almost always see people there, playing and socializing. Many are not from this neighborhood, which I see as an indication that there is a much greater demand for high quality community basketball courts than is being met by the city. I'm not a fan of basketball, nor of the Kings who helped upgrade the courts, but I know park activation when I see it.

Fremont Park: This park has a playground used by every kid who lives in the neighborhood. It has a number of special events throughout the year, the biggest of which is Chalk It Up on Labor Day weekend. The park is surrounded by both housing and retail, so it gets a lot of unplanned visits.

Capitol Park: Capitol and Sutter's Fort are of course not primarily parks, but parks surrounding important state buildings. For me, the most interesting thing is the arboretum. It could be better advertised and have an app guide, but nevertheless it is a great resource.

Sutter's Fort and State Indian Museum: Again, a park managed by the state primarily for other purposes, but with some nice park amenities. The ponds and fountains are my favorites.

Grant Park: This would be another big, bland water-wasting grass park, but it is saved by having a great little playground and a drinking fountain.

Zapata Park: Though small, Zapata has a playground, garden, court, grass and trees. The most distinctive thing it has is adjacent multi-family housing, so the park is always full of kids and families.

Southside Park: Southside is of course the gem of the central city, with a large number of amenities. The playgrounds are large enough to have a variety of equipment for different ages, with elements not seen in other parks, and is heavily used by families.

Next up: What activates a park?

Parks in the central city

Winn Park

Winn Park, a block-square park between P & Q, and 27th & 28th, seems dead to me. It doesn’t matter what time of day I see the park, it is almost always empty, sometimes with some homeless folks hanging out, and more rarely, a family with kids on the playground equipment. Other parks seem lively much of the day. Why are the parks so different? I have been visiting all the parks in Sacramento central city to take photos and see if I can make sense of their characteristics.

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the magic water fountain on M Street

water fountain in the M Street mini-park
water fountain in the M Street mini-park

In my previous post, I complained about the non-functional water fountains at SacRT light rail stations, but in doing so, I remembered that I’d never posted about the water fountain on M Street in Sacramento. Herewith is my paean to the M Street water fountain.

In a tiny triangle park at M Street and 48th Street in East Sacramento is a wonderful thing, a public drinking fountain. Not only is there a drinking fountain, but also a decorative fountain, and benches, and flowers, and shrubs, and a patch of grass. I stop here on every trip, whether I’m thirsty or not, just to celebrate this little corner. Sometimes I’ll stop and lie on the grass, or sit on the bench and enjoy the fountain. Other times, it is just a quick drink and on with my trip. I’ve seen mothers here letting their kids play, and retired folks just passing the time. There is always a bowl beside the fountain for dogs to have a drink as well.

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a thirst for working water fountains

non-functioning water fountain at Sunrise light rail station
non-functioning water fountain at Sunrise light rail station

On Wednesday evening, I rode from Woodside K-8 School in Citrus Heights to the Sunrise SacRT light rail station, and then caught light rail home. As I passed Sunflower in Fair Oaks, I thought of stopping for a drink of water, but decided to just head on down the hill to the drinking fountain on the north side of the red Fair Oaks bridge. It was not working, covered with plastic. I continued on to the Sunrise station, where both water fountains are not working. I suspect these have not been working for years, they look abandoned. By this time, I was pretty darn thirsty, and the long wait in the evening for the next light rail train was not pleasant. Even if I’d wanted to go to a convenience store for something to drink, there aren’t any close to that station.

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Walk Score

Walk Score offers an assessment of the walkability of any location. It is available in any browser at, and is also available as a free app for the iPhone and Android, and in any browser at Walk Score is based on the distance to the places people want to go, such as grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, fitness locations, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing & music.

I live at O St and 16 St in mid-town Sacramento P and 12th in downtown Sacramento, which has a WalkScore of 85, very walkable, shown at right. The R St and 16th St corridors, which have higher scores, are easy walking distance. The Neighborhood section of the app offers Walk Score, Transit Score, and Bike Score, but for the entire neighborhood of downtown, not for specific address.

The browser interface offers more information, for both specific addresses and general areas such as Sacramento. The graphic below is only part of the web page. Note that the results from the app and the web site are not the same, and I don’t know why, but they are similar enough that it should not make a big difference.

The exact algorithm that weights these amenities is not public, but you can get an idea by selecting the Street Smarts Walk Score option. Having six grocery stores within 0.6 miles, eight restaurants within 0.2 miles, and eight coffee shops within 0.3 miles supports my score. One critical item not on the list is farmers’ markets, which I would weight very highly, though the seasonal nature of most farmers’ markets might be a challenge. The closest one to me is two blocks away, but it only runs May through September. It is only 1.4 miles to the year-round farmers’ market at 8th St and W St. Some performance theatres show up in the movie theaters category, but some of them do not, so I’d make that a separate category since plays are such an important part of my life.

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