A Lake, a Park, and a Community- Why Collaborative Stewardship Matters
Nestled in the quiet neighborhoods of northwest Reno, Lake Park rests amidst the aged trees and historic homes that surround it. Ever since its inception in November of 1951, this park has served as an invaluable resource to all its nearby residents, as well as the greater Reno community. There’s undoubtedly something special going on here- take some time to walk around the lake or speak with any frequent park goer, and you’ll quickly understand the deep-rooted connection between Lake Park and the community.
This past month, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting two of Lake Park’s biggest supporters, advocates, and stewards- Cathy Schmidt and Ellen Marston. Recently, we sat down (over zoom) and enjoyed a nearly hour-long conversation on all things Lake Park. Even through
the screen of a laptop, their boundless passion for Lake Park was beautifully conveyed, inspiring a sense of appreciation for the park they call home.
“It’s just a little treasure,” spoke Ellen Marston, “everybody loves the park. There’s just a lot of affection there for it”. In Ellen’s case, affection may be an understatement considering that she volunteered an estimated 50 hours cleaning and maintaining the park this past November alone. Together, Cathy and Ellen have really taken the meaning of stewardship to a whole new level. Every week, you can find the pair picking up trash, pulling weeds, and managing a dog waste station as part of the Parks Foundation’s Doggie Ambassador Project.
Despite their tireless efforts and hard work, Cathy and Ellen are not alone. They are proud members of Friends of Lake Park- a small, community-based organization that has encouraged stewardship around the park since May of 2018. Catalyzed by the possibility of the lake being filled in by the city, residents of the Lake Park community came together and delivered an overwhelming response in favor of preserving their beloved lake. “We maxed out that city survey with over 300 responses to keep the lake” stated Cathy with a triumphant grin. From that point on, residents realized the potential of what could be accomplished when a community organizes and comes together around a common goal, “That action was really what started Friends of Lake Park and the idea of a community coming together” said Cathy. Since then, Friends of Lake Park has spent countless hours maintaining the park they care so much about.
This sense of communal ownership and responsibility is a beautiful thing to witness. Through collective efforts at the park, it is apparent that community members feel a shared sense of place. “Everybody has a story about lake park. Some people live on the other side of town now, but they come back and they have stories about when they grew up here” said Cathy, “they’re not always the most important stories, but it creates a shared history that really binds people together and to the park itself”.
Lake Park has not only been preserved by the community, but the community has been strengthened by Lake Park, “We all know each other's names, there are people that know you and greet you when they see you. It makes the community safer, friendlier, and just nicer to be
a part of” said Cathy. “There’s been increased use, people bring their friends because they think this is just an awesome park. It’s safe and it’s quiet, plus there’s a playground for the little ones” added Ellen joyfully.
Lake Park is a place for all to come and enjoy. Speaking with Ellen and Cathy emphasized that point and furthermore, highlighted the paramount importance of parks in the community. “There are very few things that are free in this world anymore, but the parks are there” noted Ellen. And it’s true, regardless of identity, race, religion, or socioeconomic status, the parks exist to serve all members of the public. “It’s not a gated community, anyone can come use this park, everyone is welcome here, and you don’t have to have a lot of money to come and enjoy it” stated Cathy, “in regards to thinking about equity, parks keep that going”.
Ultimately, the 3-acre plot of land known as Lake Park is more than just a park. It’s a place that fosters community. A place full of shared memories. A place that shines light on what can be accomplished when people collaborate and endeavor towards a common goal. Lake Park ought to serve as an exemplary model and form of encouragement to all in the Truckee Meadows. In the midst of this pandemic, where recreating outdoors is one of the only safe activities to pursue, we need our parks, trails, and open spaces more than ever. These public spaces are for everyone. They are ours. It’s time that we recognize our collective ownership and responsibility; let’s take action to protect, preserve, and enjoy this most cherished resource.
To learn more about Lake Park’s history and amenities, as well as other parks in the area, be sure to check out the Parks Foundation's Parks Project page.