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HKHC Case Examples: Joint Use Agreements

April, 2011 jointusephoto

Communities: Oakland, CA; Central Valley, CA; Cook County, GA; Hamilton County, OH; Kingston, NY; Lakeworth/Greenacre, FL

Topics: Schoolyards and joint use for physical activity, the process of formalizing joint use agreements, and joint use for healthy eating

The Community Guide, a leading source for evidence-based public health practice, has identified “increasing access to spaces for physical activity” as a key aspect of childhood obesity prevention. According to Public Health Law and Policy (PHLP), joint use has emerged as one of the most promising strategies for increasing access to recreation opportunities in neighborhoods. Joint use, sometimes called “shared use,” is the practice of two or more agencies or groups sharing space. Some examples of joint use are: a schoolyard is opened to the public for recreation after school hours; a swim team and a school share a swimming pool; a recreation center opens its basketball courts to a physical education teacher so that students have a place for exercise. Most often, we hear of joint use being used to increase physical activity, but joint use can also support healthy eating. Joint use partnerships can be informal, verbal agreements or can be formalized through a legal document. Formal joint use agreements address liability for the facility (school, gym, etc.), as well as the community group using the facility. Many Healthy Kids Healthy Communities partnerships are developing joint use agreements as a strategy to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living. These case examples provide several perspectives on and approaches to joint use agreements.

Case Examples

Oakland, CA and Central Valley, CA: Using Schoolyards to Promote Physical activity After Hours
Oakland’s Community Partnership is focused on increasing access to safe recreation opportunities by opening school yards outside of school hours. The Oakland Schoolyard Initiative (OSI) will redesign and renovate schoolyards to be conducive to organized sports and other programming during after-school time, weekends, and summer. The lead agency, the East Bay Asian Youth Center, has succeeded in securing a use agreement with Roosevelt Middle School to organize and supervise recreational sports activities at the newly constructed outdoor field and gymnasium Monday through Friday, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, and on Saturdays, from 9:00am to 12:00pm. This agreement for shared use of the facility allows the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) to provide activities in the space, and the school and EBAYC to share expenses for custodial services, space and security.

The Central Valley Community Partnership in California trained seventy-five community leaders to be strong advocates for making changes in the community to support residents’ health. One of the changes the community leaders have worked on tirelessly is joint use agreements with schools in Fresno, among other towns. Historically, the schoolyard gates have been locked after school and on weekends. But since there was no safe place for family recreation after school and on weekends, it made sense to use space that was already there – the schoolyard! The Burroughs School in Fresno is now open to the community after school and on weekends as a safe space for recreation and physical activity, in no small part due to the local advocacy efforts of the community leaders.

Cook County, GA and Hamilton County, OH: Formalizing Joint Use Agreements with Schools
In Cook County, Georgia, the school system currently allows the public to use the school yards after hours. However, these joint use agreements are informal. The Cook County, Georgia partnership is working to formalize these agreements now. Over the past year, the Partnership worked on windshield and walkability surveys on three different school yards and determined all three to be in good condition. Now that the play spaces have been deemed safe, the Partnership is working with the City of Adel and Cook County Schools to draft formal written documents to ensure the playgrounds remain open to the public.

The Hamilton County, Ohio partnership completed a comprehensive assessment of shared-use policies across all 22 public school districts in the county. A key goal over the next year is to expand access to safe physical activity places through the adoption of shared-use agreements between community/school and community/faith-based partners.

Kingston, NY and Lake Worth/Greenacres/Palm Springs, FL: Joint Use for Healthy Eating
The Kingston, New York partnership’s Garden Committee supported the installment and use of gardens at ten (10) of the fourteen schools in the Kingston City School District (KCSD). This garden may be used during the afterschool hours, as well gardens on properties of the YMCA and the Ulster County Mental Health Department.  They also assessed the suitability of city parks for community gardens and drafted a model policy for the city to allow food gardens on city property and parks, which they will present to the Common Council early in 2011.

During the first year of the HKHC project, the Lake Worth/Greenacres/Palm Springs, FloridaCommunity Partnership developed a joint use agreement with the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Lake Worth to facilitate a garden project on the Center’s property. Children from an aftercare program based at For the Children go to the garden weekly to participate in planting, growing, and harvesting the food. To maximize impact and increase food access, a partnership was created with “Palm Beach Harvest,” a local food distribution organization, to oversee the garden and also distribute the excess food to low-income and food insecure community members. Additional support for garden maintenance comes from the ‘green team’ staff of a local resort.

Lessons Learned
Joint use agreements are a low-cost approach to increasing safe recreation and play spaces or community garden space. Whether formal or informal, joint use agreements can play a role in providing space for family and child recreation and for healthy eating initiatives. The key to success, seen in each of these examples, is being creative along the way – in the locations you share, the partners with whom you collaborate and plan, or the strategies you use to achieve the joint use agreements.

Additional Resources
The Community Guide
Public Health Law and Policy Toolkit on Joint Use
Joint Use 101
Model joint use agreements
Frequently Asked Questions about Joint Use