Rancho Cucamonga City Council established Healthy RC as a comprehensive system of interconnected planning, program, policy, and partnership efforts that work across sectors to promote community health and equity. The initiative was established as a genuine partnership of government, community agencies, and grass-roots residents who collectively identify their community’s health challenges and work collaboratively to address them. Healthy RC led to several programs, including those highlighted, designed to improve health and well-being.
Building Trust and Los Amigos Park
The predominantly Latino neighborhood of Cucamonga faced growing barriers to accessing healthy lifestyles; there were no outlets for selling fresh produce, limited access to open spaces for exercise, and streets lacked curbs, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
A grant provided the opportunity to build a 3.4-acre park, to be built for the community, by the community. A tailored approach to engagement was implemented to reach this population that historically did not trust local government. With a majority bilingual population, all materials including mailers, social media posts and online information were translated to Spanish. Design workshops were led by bilingual staff and held at various locations, days, and times to alleviate accessibility and scheduling issues for working families. Community partners donated food and staff provided childcare.
Cucamonga children and families were intentionally engaged. At one workshop, the children from Los Amigos Elementary School helped create an art mural which was later used as the park’s logo.
Parents provided input on the layout of the park and emphasized the importance of safety and visibility. Park needs, amenities, and even the park name were all determined during these workshops. The resulting final design included a skate park, basketball court, playground, water misters, and outdoor fitness equipment.
Additionally, motivated to address the missing sidewalks and bike lanes, members of Campeones para la Comunidad took photos, and created a photo-voice project of issue areas for a federal Safe Routes to School Grant Application. Funds were awarded for infrastructure enhancements, as well as educational programming for the nearby school.
Suicide Awareness and Prevention
Within the first two weeks of the 2018 school year, four Rancho Cucamonga students committed suicide. As a result of the community-wide trauma and grief, Healthy RC conducted a comprehensive Quality of Life survey which indicated that 57% of the respondents who acknowledged a need for help did not seek it. Additionally, one in three teens reported that they have attempted to harm themselves.
Healthy RC formed a Mental Health Subcommittee, which has developed strategies to address and inform mental health challenges.
The Subcommittee developed a bilingual Your Mind Matters (YMM) digital and print campaign that targeted all segments of the community. The materials encourage residents to “Start the Conversation” and direct residents to HealthyRC.com, which features an extensive list of local mental health resources.
Healthy RC Youth Leaders used their personal experiences to develop a series of mental health awareness videos, providing support for prevalent community issues and highlighting 24-hour hotline resources.
Youth leaders also worked with city staff to create an annual Teen Summit to empower high school students and provide them with a platform to be heard, to connect with mental health resources, and to listen to motivational speakers.
Healthy RC also hosts quarterly Community Conversations on Mental Health, providing small group settings to help reduce barriers to mental health services.
In addition, all five school districts have continued these community conversations by providing suicide prevention and Mental Health First Aid trainings to staff and workshops for students and parents.
In 2015, a local gravel mine which had long been an eyesore, closed making it available for development. The city partnered with the county to annex the land and develop a plan to transform the mining site into a series of healthy, walkable neighborhoods and thousands of acres of conservation.
To the city’s surprise, once presented the plan, the community expressed disappointment with the lack of inclusion and felt the city was forcing new development upon them.
The city set aside the preliminary concepts and began engaging the community in the creation of a new plan. City staff began by bringing blank maps to community workshops, representing a clean slate. Together, citizens and staff shared the responsibility of crafting a strategy to develop the quarry into desired neighborhoods while preserving the natural elements of the foothills.
The city embarked on further engagement, in both English and Spanish, focusing on “meeting the community where they are at.” Nine pop-up outreach events engaged over 800 community members.
Virtual workshops, surveys, and other digital engagement events were held to ensure that all residents were able to receive information, ask questions, and provide feedback.
The resulting Etiwanda Heights Neighborhood and Conservation Plan articulates a vision for extensive conservation of the foothills and alluvial fans that border the city to the north. The plan is further enabled by high quality, complete, walkable neighborhoods that reflect the rural history of Etiwanda and provide a range of housing opportunities to the south.