Parks After Dark returned to Val Verde on Thursday, which offered fun, free and safe recreational experiences for the whole family, and community, to enjoy.
The outside portion of the event featured live music, games for kids including big chess, tic-tac-toe and, of course, the playground. There were also resources provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and CalFresh available.
Inside the recreational building was a dedicated “teen zone,” where kids ages 12-17 could paint a skateboard deck — provided for free — make T-shirts, or play billiards, air hockey and Wii Sports. Beef and chicken sliders, as well as other snacks and drinks, were also provided at no cost.
Larry Muepo, Los Angeles County park supervisor, said Parks after Dark at Val Verde aimed to bring a sense of unity within the SCV and to break the image of fragmentation by including unincorporated areas into county events.
“In unincorporated areas, what they usually have is space, they have amenities provided, but what you don’t see is park programming,” said Muepo. “So the whole point of the park programming is to try and involve the community to get them engaged with your neighbors and other people who live in the surrounding area.”
Muepo said all the funding for the event was provided by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, with particular support from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who Muepo said had “gone out of her way to make sure that we have parks available for kids.”
“This particular community is considered a more rural community, there’s only two ways in,” said Muepo. “So this area, in particular, because it’s hard to get in… people in this area tend to stay in their house. The kids have to be bused to school. So by bringing program out to this community area, this community center, a lot of people can experience what other parks get to enjoy.”
A decades-long Val Verde resident, Amber Elton, there at the event with her two children, said community members see the differences in programs offered at other parks but welcome the change and effort being brought to Val Verde.
“We do see the difference sometimes between what’s offered at the Castaic Sports Complex, in terms of the facility and the activities that are offered to the kids. We’re aware of it,” said Elton. “And so when we get some attention here, some activity here, we love it. And we always try to come out and support when there’s stuff going on here.”
For Muepo, a father of four boys, his personally favorite part about organizing these events was seeing community members be able to enjoy the same things he and his family enjoy — all at an affordable cost.
“What I really enjoy is, we have a lot of families that don’t get a chance to slow down and do family things that what we saw in maybe in the ’70s, ’80s, and even ’90s,” said Muepo. “And so we’re trying to bring back the element of family get togethers, family gatherings, then what that allows people to do is have a chance to slow down, enjoy themselves, and be able to have a night off without having to go through an exorbitant amount of money.”
Music for the event was provided by Ashley Lilly, MC Deltron Jackson and DJ Code Red.