Every year, the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) highlights the efforts of people working to nurture their communities and the local environment. Given a shared passion for the environment, Boeing partnered with TPL this year to recognize outstanding environmental volunteers in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. The 2021 Environment Leadership Award focused on individuals who work to create more environmentally resilient and equitable communities.
Teresa Zepeda Sosa of Wenatchee, Washington took the top prize for her work in helping to transform Kiwanis Methow Park. Once a Wenatchee community gem, the park had fallen into disrepair. Teresa wanted to breathe life back into the park and her community, so she became a founding member of a group called Parque Padirinos, an organization created to revitalize Methow Park.
The goal for Parque Padirinos was to create a communal space for the local Latino community for cultural festivals, family gatherings, and other community events. Zepeda Sosa was instrumental in getting more members of the community interested and invested in their public spaces.
Zepeda Sosa understands the significance of parks in a community. “I grew up living in front of a park in Atlixco, Puebla and that’s how I know the importance of having access to parks. My neighborhood park was a place that I often spent time at, it was a place where I escaped from the poverty and hardships I was experiencing at home. At the park, I was joyful and safe.”
She wanted to create a similar safe space in Washington. “Here in Wenatchee, I was seeing a necessity for a neutral gathering space that everyone could share and enjoy. I knew that this park could help improve the quality of life for my community, through their mental, social, and physical health.”
David Gorton nominated Zepeda Sosa for the environmental award, writing, “Teresa Zepeda’s tireless efforts in the Parque Padirinos community group in Wenatchee, WA has had a galvanizing and inspiring effect on her community.”
As the winner of the Environment Leadership Award, Teresa can give $5,000 to an organization of her choice. Teresa has chosen to award Parque Padirinos with the cash prize.
Zepeda Sosa elaborated on why Methow Park was an important project to take on. “Methow Park is in the heart of our community and it’s located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. The design now has features that celebrates and honors the culture. It is welcoming to everyone and especially to people like me, first generation immigrants. The renovation of this park is a reminder that change is possible when we work together.”
Methow Park is once again a thriving community gathering spot, offering a place for fitness, recreation and social gatherings. Members of Parque Padirinos have not stopped there; they continue to be active in their community to address inequities, including helping to spread safety information about COVID-19 to Spanish-speaking residents and creating a non-partisan campaign encouraging Latinos to vote.
By Carolyn Gatlin