KARLA MARTINEZ / Coachella Unincorporated
Air quality for more than 400 families in the Eastern Coachella Valley will be improved by the end of May due to mobile home road paving projects happening in the communities of Mecca, Thermal and Oasis.
The first phase of the paving project started in March 2014, when 21 mobile home parks were paved, and now the second phase is taking place. Last week, crews have been preparing the foundations for paving, and this week paving is expected to begin.
“The families who have now experienced the difference with the paved roads can go out for a walk without worrying that a car is going to pass by and then there’s going to be dust fumigating them,” said Sahara Huazano, project coordinator for Building Healthy Communities, Eastern Coachella Valley.
During the second phase of the paving projects, 18 mobile homes are scheduled to be paved, including the largest mobile home community in the East Valley, St. Anthony’s Mobile Home Community, located in Mecca.
Before any of the mobile home communities in the East Valley, collectively known as the Polanco Parks, were paved, residents worried about breathing in clouds of dirt and dust every time cars drove by. They also had to worry about their cars being stuck in mud whenever it rained, making it sometimes impossible to leave the mobile home park.
The Polanco paving project began after residents from 39 of the mobile home parks voiced their concern about their living conditions. In response, Riverside County approved a total of five million dollars in funding raised from the AB 1318 air quality mitigation fees from the Sentinel Energy Project, the natural gas-powered electricity generation plant in Desert Hot Springs.
Once the application for funds was submitted, many Eastern Coachella Valley advocates and residents pushed for money to be invested Polanco Parks to improve air quality and exposure to dust, according to Rodolfo Piñon, director of community capacity building for Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation.
“This project has the ability to increase the improvement of air quality, the reduction of dust in the mobile homes, improve respiratory health, and improve access to transportation corridors,” Pinon said.
In the mobile home parks that were paved in during the first round in March 2014, families are already experiencing a better quality of life, including being able to enjoy outdoor exercise, something many others may take for granted.
“Especially on rainy days, it would get really muddy outside, and sometimes we couldn’t even go outside because of how dirty [the road] had turned,” said Hilda Castro, owner of Castros Mobile Home Park in Coachella. “Now we see a lot of differences; we have better air with no dirt or dust, and we haven’t heard that many people coughing outside because of the dust.”
Castro said while residents in the mobile home communities welcome the much needed road improvements, there are still health issues in their community that need to be addressed.
“[The paving project] impacts the community in a positive way; the air we are breathing is cleaner.” said Castro. “ But we still need to be connected to public sewer lines. I think that would help us even more because that way we don’t need to be emptying the water. Sometimes the water is just dirty and it’s not healthy for the kids to be around that.”