Parks are at the heart of Minneapolis. From neighborhood parks to the Grand Rounds connecting the city, its lakes and the Mississippi River, parks define Minneapolis. They are essential to making Minneapolis a great place to live. Fifteen percent of the land in Minneapolis is park land.
A few recent conversations have me thinking about parks. I met with Jenna Fletcher, who leads work on the Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People program. Their work is focused on making sure every person in the Twin Cities has access to parks within a ten-minute walk and that these parks reflect the needs and wants of the communities around them. I also heard from Cora Peterson, a Minneapolis resident who volunteers her time and expertise to champion a project connecting a couple biking routes and the surrounding community more effectively. Finally, I met with Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. The Park Board is an independently-elected, semi-autonomous agency responsible for managing Minneapolis’ parks. The Minneapolis park system has been recognized by the Trust for Public Land as the No. 1 urban park system in America for the last five years
In all these conversations, the people I was hearing from talked about connecting communities to parks. But even more than that, they raised concerns about equity in Minneapolis. They talked about how the disparities in our city undermine quality of life for individuals and families as well as for our collective ability to be a great city now and in the future.
I went into these conversations ready to hear about parks. I wasn’t necessarily expecting the conversation to go right to equity, but it did. It’s another signal that the disparities in our community need to be addressed.
As a city that is both quickly diversifying and has significant racial disparities in wealth, income, educational opportunity and more, we have work to do to make sure this city works for all of its residents. And we need to work on equity from all directions, including parks. If we don’t, our community will not be resilient in the face of the stresses and shocks coming our way.