May 27, 2022
Photo from Jonathan Whitaker for the Merced County Times
Houlihan Park, a 4.1 acre park in the unincorporated community of Planada in Merced County, recently celebrated its renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Residents identified revitalization of Houlihan Park as a cornerstone for community pride, health, and empowerment. CivicWell partnered with Cultiva la Salud and Sierra Designs, Inc. to produce the detailed site plan for the park in 2018. We are delighted to see it come to fruition.
CivicWell has led several community-based planning efforts in Planada with Cultiva la Salud, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating health equity in the San Joaquin Valley by fostering changes in communities that support healthy eating and active living. For this project, Cultiva la Salud secured a planning grant and brought CivicWell in to facilitate community visioning workshops and develop a plan based on community input. We enlisted Visalia landscape architecture firm Sierra Designs, Inc. to provide expertise on park design.
The process involved engagement, assessment, planning, implementation, and sustainability. For the engagement, assessment, and planning stages Cultiva La Salud worked with a number of organizations and agencies including Mujeres Poderosas (Powerful Women) from Planada, the office of Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, Parent Institute for Quality Education, Merced County Parks and Recreation, Merced County Public Health Department, California Highway Patrol, Merced County Sheriff’s Department, United Way of Merced County, Building Healthy Communities, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, UC Merced, Lideres Campesinas, and Planada Elementary School District. These organizations joined together under the Safe Routes to Park program to identify infrastructure improvement needs at Houlihan Park — the only community park located in the town of Planada — in an effort to increase family participation and reduce crime in and around the park and throughout the community.
The bilingual (English/Spanish) community workshops identified priority improvements, and led to a conceptual plan. The Plan included recommendations for refurbishments and new features desired by the community, as well as cost estimates.
The $2.4 million remodel was funded through a California Department of Parks and Recreation grant secured by Merced County. The remodel project includes outdoor gym exercise stations, a lighted walking loop, a water-efficient irrigation system, picnic shelters, a performing arts stage, and more.
According to a recent article from the Merced County Times, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was a great success. “Adult residents applauded as dozens of young children jumped around the new playground to mark the special day that was more than a decade in the making, and involved multiple community groups, individual planners and local and state funding…Houlihan now features a new playground under a solid shade structure — the first of its kind for a park in Merced County, a splash pad, lighted walking pathways, renovated basketball courts, new bathrooms, picnic shelters, and an outdoor performance art stage, among many other things.”