SAN DIEGO – A new program by San Diego city and county leaders with area partners gets underway this week in a bid to keep local parks safe by offering entertainment options and meals to families.

San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera is seen speaking on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, for the rollout of the new Parks After Dark program in San Diego. (KSWB)

Starting Thursday, programming for the new Parks After Dark initiative will be offered in the evening hours at the City Heights, Linda Vista and Skyline Hills recreation centers. Modeled after similar programs in other communities, events will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through Aug. 27.

The program features live entertainment, games, free meals for kids and activities for all ages in an effort officials say offers a safe environment in these select neighborhoods.

“Over the course of this year, we’ve actually lost a couple of young people,” San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said Tuesday. “While this program isn’t going to bring anyone back, we do know that when we create safe spaces, when we create spaces with love and positive energy in our parks and our communities, it is much less likely that we’re going to have tragedies like those we’ve experienced.”

Officials say the city received a $500,000 grant from San Diego County to start the new program. It traces its roots to a Los Angeles County program of a similar ilk that was credited with reducing crime, according to the San Diego Parks Foundation.

Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, said the county put funding into the program with the city with knowledge that “we’re actually improving the health and wellbeing – and mental wellbeing – of our families and our kids.”

Programming at all three recreation centers will run from 6-9 p.m.

More information on the initiative can be found by clicking or tapping here.