Activating A Play Streets: Interview With Eric Copeland

I recently had the opportunity to interview my friend Eric Copeland, who lives in the Rose Park neighborhood. Eric was one of five residents who reached out to us to activate a Play Street pilot in his neighborhood. Our hope is that Eric’s experience would excite and encourage you to launch a Play Street in your neighborhood and on your block. Can you imagine hundreds of Play Streets led by residents like you happening throughout our diverse city? 

Scott Jones: Why did you want to host a Play Street on your street? 

Eric Copeland: My wife and I have lived in our neighborhood for 3 years and have hosted some smaller events but wanted to have a Play Streets where we could get to know more people. More importantly, we have two children and wanted to create a safe and fun environment where they could play with other kids who live around us. After seeing a Play Street happen in another neighborhood I wanted to have the same event on our street where kids could jump rope, ride bikes, play with bubbles, giant legos and Connect 4. In addition to having kid activities, I wanted adults to have fun so that’s why we had music, good food and a raffle. 

Scott: Were you nervous about hosting with neighbors you didn’t know? Why or why not?

Eric: I was the main host and went door to door with one other neighbor who offered to help get signatures. As we talked to neighbors we found out what interests people had and ended up getting a lot of support from neighbors. It was fun to see people use their gifts and skills for the Play Street.

Scott: What were the challenges you faced getting ready for the Play Street?

Eric: The only challenge was having enough time to get Block Party signatures and finding the right time when people were home. We often left flyers with consent forms and had a drop box but found that people were most receptive to giving consent for the Play Street and offering to participate when we had a face to face encounter. 

Scott: What did you love about your Play Streets on your street?

Eric: I loved everyone who showed up because it told me that this was a type of event that people wanted!! I loved seeing the smiles on kids faces as they played in the street and loved seeing the adults relax and eat and talk with old and new neighbors!

Scott: How did your kids and neighbor’s kids respond to being able to play in the street?

Eric: The kids had a really good time and played well with old and new friends. Because the streets were blocked off, the kids were relaxed and could play and be themselves. 

Scott: What’s one story you can share about your Play Street experience?

Eric: As we went door to door to get consent for the Play Street we got to learn about peoples talents and gifts in the neighborhood which made for a great Play Street. We had a neighbor who owns a sign company and made a sign for the event which people could take pictures by. We had a neighbor who offered to bbq for anyone who brought food. We had a neighbor who grows plants and donated some plants for the raffle. The Rose Park Neighborhood Association donated items for the raffle as well. We had a neighbor who offered to facilitate a balloon toss game with anyone who wanted to play. We had a neighbor who brought a little bbq and made pizzas for anyone who was hungry! Another neighbor wheeled out a basketball hoop so that kids could use. Being a part of an event where everyone brought something and participated made for a really meaningful experience, beyond what I could have done by myself!

Scott: What surprised you about your Play Streets?

Eric: I was surprised by how many people showed up and stayed Afterwards, a lot of neighbors commented how fun it was and wanted to do it again!

Scott: What would you say to someone who says, “Well, all that sounds nice, but I don’t have kids. How can Play Streets benefit me?”

Eric: Play streets is an opportunity to bring people together on a block. Even if you don’t have children, it’s a way to create a safer environment because if everyone knows everyone, then neighbors will watch out for each other. 

Scott: What is your hope for Play Streets moving forward on your block, neighborhood, and around the city?

Eric: It would be nice to be able to have weekly or monthly Play Streets on my block, and it would be encouraging to see others do it on their block too. Hopefully the city can partner with residents to eliminate or reduce the cost of permits and barricades so that more Play Streets can happen on a citywide level. 

Scott: Would you recommend other LB residents to host a Play Streets? Why?

Eric: Of course. It’s a fun way to meet neighbors, create community and safety on your street. This will be an event that can be done regularly and helps build traditions on your block. Your friends, family and neighbors will always remember the amount of fun they had living on your street!
Scott: Thank you for your excellent leadership in your neighborhood.

If you are interested in hosting a Play Street in your neighborhood or on your block please email us:
Also, if  this interview has inspired you or if Play Streets is something that you believe has the ability to make Long Beach a safer, healthier, and more connected city, please make a donation to further our neighborhood efforts: Donate Here

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