A Pocket Of Hope

There is something special about pocket parks that always captures my attention.

Perhaps it is because I live in a townhome, my outdoor living space a small 14-foot by 20-foot patio, and I can easily relate to the smaller scale.

Whatever it is, I find myself captivated by these small parks and am always curious to explore and see what they hold for the unsuspecting visitor.

You may remember a few months back when I wrote about the Goldwater Memorial Park in Phoenix and how I really appreciate it for what it is and how it has made great use of what was once a vacant lot in the heart of a bustling city.

Today I would like to take a few moments and share with you some highlights of another pocket park I recently discovered in downtown Phoenix.

Last weekend, my wife and I were running errands and we stopped at a local coffee shop to grab a latte to help us through the morning. Coffee in hand, we left the building and across the quiet street I saw an intriguing bronze sculpture that I just had to investigate.

It looked like a group of square rings with people of various ages standing near it. There was an older couple and a man in the back, a young girl crawling through the rings, and two adults swinging a child by the arms in front with exuberant expressions on their faces.

I didn’t know what the sculpture was named or its meaning at the time, but I snapped a few photos and noticed the sign identifying the park as “Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park.”

What was interesting about this park is that is a linear park in what appears to be the middle of a widened city street. There’s a path down the middle with various sculptures on either end, benches, a gazebo, and plaques with inspirational quotes.

One of the quotes that I found particularly inspirational read, “Make a commitment to do everything in your power to help yourself fight the disease.” All I could think to myself at the time was “Wow!” I was speechless.

When I got home, I did a little research and discovered the significance of the park. Richard Bloch was a co-founder, with his brother, of the tax preparation company H&R Block. In 1978, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was told he only had a few months to live.

However, he beat the lung cancer, sold his shares in the company and founded the R.A. Bloch Cancer Support Center at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He was then diagnosed in the 1980s with colon cancer and lived until 2004, when he passed away from heart failure.

Part of the foundation’s work has been to establish 24 of these survivor parks throughout the United States and Canada.

As I studied a little more about the park and the main sculpture in front, I found out some interesting information. The piece is called “Cancer…There’s Hope” and was designed by Victor Salmone.

The sculpture depicts different people in various stages in their battle with cancer. The older couple and man in the back represent cancer patients and their supporters. The square rings, or maze, represent treatment, and there is a young girl working her way through the maze. Finally, the two adults swinging the younger child represent those who have been successful in their treatment.

There are many other things about this park that I really loved, but I will leave them for another time.

If you are coming to the ASLA Annual Meeting this fall, you should put this on your “Must See, Places to Visit” list while you are here. It’s just a couple of miles from downtown and you can even ride the light rail. Just exit the train at the Central and McDowell stop. You won’t want to miss it or the great coffee!

Do you have a Cancer Survivors Park or other pocket park that you enjoy in your city? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: bcoleman001@gmail.com.