Last Friday Air Alliance Houston hosted the first of three Community Mapping Workshops in Pasadena, Texas. The workshops are the next step in our two-year long community project in Pasadena, which is generously funded by the Houston Endowment.
Our partners in this workshop were Neighborhood Centers, Inc. (NCI) and Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES). NCI was kind enough to host the workshop at their Cleveland-Ripley House in Pasadena. They also recruited participants from their Community Engineers program. HCPHES has worked with AAH to develop our community survey and plan the curriculum for the three-day workshop.
In session one of the workshop, we began by asking participants to map the distance between their homes and their work, school, stores, relatives, or other frequently visited places. In the map at right, homes are represented by red dots. The cluster of green dots in the center of the map is NCI’s Cleveland-Ripley House, where many workshop attendees work or attend school. Participants were also asked to indicate whether they commuted by car, on foot, by bus, or by carpooling. Every single participant traveled individually by car, and trend that is due at least in part to Pasadena’s lack of a bus system. (Residents told us that while Pasadena did briefly have a bus, it was discontinued for lack of use.)
Our next mapping exercise was what we call “Treasure Mapping.” Residents plotted their homes alongside community assets like schools, churches, green spaces, and stores. One trend that emerged from this activity was that many of the community’s assets are located in south Pasadena, where many of the city’s more affluent residents live. Those familiar with Pasadena will know that the north side of the city is home to State Highway 225–known as “Refinery Row”–and a large concentration of petrochemical facilities. Many participants suggested that the residents of north Pasadena do not enjoy economic benefits from the industry located in their community–a common theme in environmental justice communities everywhere.
In the final mapping activity of our workshop, residents created an overlay on their “Treasure Maps” to draw in their vision of what Pasadena could become in the future. Some ideas emerging from this exercise were: to create a new bus route in Pasadena, including one with Park & Rides to get residents in to the City of Houston; to add more green spaces, including soccer fields on the east side of the city to alleviate crowding at existing fields; to invest in a zoo or amusement park that would bring tax revenue into the city; to improve sidewalks; and to add more streetlights at parks that are underused during the twilight hours.
In the coming sessions, the group will map community challenges, then look at strategies such as air monitoring and pollution logs to address those challenges. With this workshop we hope to gain insight into what Pasadena residents want and need from their community. We also hope to form new partnerships in the community for the next phase of our project: community-based participatory research using particulate matter air monitoring technology.
Thank you to the citizens of Pasadena; Neighborhood Centers, Inc.; and Harris County for joining us. We’ll see you on Friday!