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AARP AARP States Texas Livable Communities

Local Grants Make Big Impact in Texas

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At first glance, Palomino Park, on the south side of San Antonio, looks like a typical urban green space. Families barbecue and chat around picnic tables. Children play soccer. 

But the park has a higher purpose. It attracts residents of all ages to the Palo Alto College campus, where it’s located.

“It’s important because many people in our community are first-generation college or have never been to college,” says Robert Garza, Palo Alto’s president. “With the park, we’re changing the narrative from ‘I’ve never been to a college’ to ‘I’ve been at college my entire life.’ Our partnership with AARP is helping with that.”

The Alamo Colleges Foundation received a $15,000 AARP Community Challenge grant to install exercise equipment along the park’s walking track. It’s one of five awarded in Texas this year for improvement projects that help make communities more livable for residents of all ages.

The fitness stations will offer a free workout option, allowing people to do standing push-ups and other exercises and work on their balance. “We have high diabetes and obesity rates in our community, so when we get people moving it is helping get them healthy,” Garza says. 

Nationally, AARP awarded $3.4 million in Community Challenge grants for 260 projects this year. The goal: promote vibrant public places; increased transportation options; affordable housing; diversity, equity and inclusion; and civic engagement.

“If you’re able to fix a broken sidewalk, neighbors see it and they start to believe that with some attention, they can have a better, more livable situation,” says Lisa Ann Rodriguez, director of community strategy for AARP Texas.

Improving accessibility

That’s the hope in Fort Worth, where a community group received a nearly $5,000 grant to fix a walkway through Al Hayne Memorial Park, on the southern side of Lancaster Avenue in downtown. Tree roots had pushed up pavers along a four-block stretch, creating unsightly tripping hazards.

In talking with local officials about the project, Greg Jensen, executive director of Lancaster District Historic Inc., learned of more opportunities and possible additional funding to work with the city on park improvements. Neighborhood residents were quick to volunteer their help. 

“It looks like the project will really build a wonderful neighborhood bonding experience,” Jensen says. 

Other Texas 2022 grant recipients include:

  • The city of Dallas Office of Community Care, which will use its $10,000 grant to install playground signage, along with Americans With Disabilities Act–compliant benches at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center.
  • The Southwest Area Regional Transit District, in the Middle Rio Grande region, which will use a $30,500 award to help older adults and individuals with disabilities learn to become more mobile and independent.
  • The Presidio Municipal Development District, which will use its $31,785 grant to pay for barbecue grills, ADA-compliant picnic tables, park benches, exercise equipment and outdoor musical instruments at Daly Park in Presidio, located about 250 miles southeast of El Paso. 

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Tom Korosec is a writer living in Dallas.

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