North Shore PPS
Perched on the northern edge of California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, North Shore is a small 3,400-person rural community. Through the 1960s-70s, North Shore was a popular tourist destination for boaters who docked their yachts at the marina. Ever increasing salinity, algae blooms and fish deaths in the adjacent sea has led to its reputation today as a decaying ghost town. Residents, predominantly Latino seasonal farmworkers, lack easy access to health services, healthy food, usable public space, and education. Many suffer exposure to air pollution and 45% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. However, despite these statistics, North Shore boasts many assets; the breathtaking natural landscape and night sky are unparalleled, residents are organized, political will is high, and creativity and entrepreneurship are abundant.
In partnership with Desert Recreation District, the parks and recreation agency for the Coachella Valley, the Nuestro Lugar“Our Place” Park Project proposes to develop a five acre neighborhood park in conjunction with supporting programs. Designed through a continuous participatory process that began in 2013, all programs and park components were selected by residents. The goals of the project seek to address the priority needs of the community, which were identified as: 1) improved mobility 2) employment and health and 3) recreational and cultural opportunities.
To address these needs, KDI worked with residents prior to the development of the 5 acre park to design and implement three programs. The first, called Biciteca, is a community bike share program developed by the youth group Desert Riderz, which improves transportation access to make it easier for people to get around North Shore. There will be a stop and bike repair shop located in the park to allow community members non-motorized access to this new amenity. To accompany this program KDI is also working with residents to advocate for safer mobility infrastructure. To establish new economic development opportunities for residents, KDI offered an entrepreneurship class to take residents through the steps of creating their own small business, which has resulted in the creation of 10 food based businesses and a farmer’s market called Delicias Laguna Azul that will find a permanent home in the new park. To build a culture of arts and other creative programming, KDI led by Artistic Directors Evelyn Serrano and Shannon Scrofano, asked residents to identify local, cultural resources that could be leveraged to create new arts and culture opportunities throughout the community. The residents leading this cultural mapping became the official North Shore Arts Committee, and began transforming the cultural assets into arts “happenings” called Situaciones such as one-night home gallery exhibits, an ambulant poetry project, Projections, andEl progresso, a bilingual newspaper written and edited by residents.
The eventual home for all of these programs will be the new 5 acre space, which features a shaded pavilion, a restroom/bike shop building, soccer field, skate plaza, sport court, playground, walking paths, and native plantings. The design of the park, inspired by the dramatic natural conditions of the Coachella desert and surrounding mountains, seeks to enhance and amplify the unique features of North Shore’s expansive horizon, brilliant light, and spectacular night skies. The summer solstice and equinox sun paths were used as a tool to carve a passageway from the park’s main path to the pavilion. Pyramidal viewing mounds are oriented to block the fierce winds from the North West, creating pockets of microclimates for people to gather, in areas such as the playground and performance space. The material palette borrows from the existing vernacular, from the use of local soil, to the artful composition of native shrub, understory and canopy plant communities. The color palette takes its cue from the cultural traditions of residents and is reflected in the waving banners of the shade pavilion and the sunset shades of the bike share.
Taken together, the programs have provided skills training and opportunity for the diverse and isolated neighborhoods of North Shore, while the physical park will create a space for exchange and learning, giving shape to the new North Shore identity.
Opening is expected in late 2016.