Bakersfield: Protective Environments
A.C.T. Success Stories
For several years, residents of Bakersfield faced challenges navigating their community safely on foot. The city lacked sidewalks in key areas near schools and other community landmarks. The lack of protective environments prohibited community members from a safe place to live, learn, work, and play.
This made commuting to schools and parks particularly dangerous for the local youth and may have played a role in the deaths of three residents. Still, residents had difficulty convincing their elected officials to take action because they lacked a comprehensive plan to address the issue. Creating a protective environment that improved the physical and social landscape while reducing community violence, required funding and technical support.
ACT helped the groups undertake a digital story telling project for Rexland project that helped highlight the problem and solutions from community members’ perspectives. The community then used this information to inform decision-makers officials about the issue. Greenfield Walking Group with support of ACT funding worked with hundreds of community members from Bakersfield to provide input and support for the grant application. Community members leveraged promotoras to meld technical expertise with community passion and conducted spirited and strategic outreach to local officials.
Community participation and engagement was fundamental to the project’s success and results came quickly. Sidewalk construction began in 2021 and was completed in Spring 2022. The Rexland Community hosted a celebration on May 28, 2022, to mark the completion of the 5-mile sidewalk project. The new sidewalk improved the physical and social environment by improving safe access to important resources in the community like schools, grocery stores, playgrounds, parks, and childcare centers.
Collaboration yielded additional benefits. Community members cite strengthened relationships with local political leaders as well as with each other. They gained valuable experience in finding and applying for grants. They also identified other community priorities and are already developing plans to address issues that lead to childhood adversity.
Youth and community violence can have lasting harmful effects on victims, their families, and the entire community. The success of the sidewalk construction in Bakersfield, reduces unintentional injury and potential deaths in the community while improving the health and wellbeing of all children.
© 2022. California Department of Public Health. Funded under contract #21-10471