On a sweltering summer day in the city, a park with big shade trees and water fountains provides an inviting place for people to cool off and relax.

But in Los Angeles, not all parks are full of trees.

“Two years ago, we went around the parklands and we realized … there are a lot of areas where there isn’t shade,” says David McNeill of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy. “And then when you got to those areas, there wasn’t necessarily convenient places to get water. And even the shade structures for the picnics were slatted, so they let sun in.”

The Baldwin Hills Conservancy helps protect and manage hundreds of acres of parkland in some of the last undeveloped sections of south L.A.

Now the group is developing a plan for how those parks can best support the community during heat waves and extreme weather.

“We can have cooling stations set up [and] increase shade structures within the parklands as well as splash pads,” McNeill says.

And he says during power outages, big open spaces like soccer fields can provide a space to distribute food and water and to provide backup power.

“So [the spaces] allow for electricity and generators and basically emergency services.”

McNeill says that as the climate warms, cities need to be prepared to protect vulnerable residents. And with planning and preparation, parks can help.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media