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Continued: Quest for 'racial equity' in parks has some wary

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 8, 2014 - 11:35 PM

She said that as manager of Richardson Nature Center in west Bloomington, an affluent and largely white area, she was struck by the diversity of the clientele and by the sometimes differing needs of persons of color.

The staff preferred to work daytime hours, she said, but many of the people who showed up during working hours were nannies towing children, while a more diverse clientele could turn up in the evening.

“It’s disruptive to make these points,” she said, “but I do think some of the top people at Three Rivers valued my point of view.”

After months of research and focus groups aimed at understanding why people of color don’t more often visit the region’s marquee parks, planners are also considering more modest day-to-day tweaks, but ones that could also raise hackles.

A case in point: Hispanic families, often more prone to spontaneous multigenerational family gatherings, find themselves blocked out at parks by people who reserved space months earlier for family reunions. Should fewer reservations be offered so that each culture’s patterns can play out?

Long-term plans

The context for the discussions is the council’s emerging Thrive 2040 long-range plan, which stresses demographic change not only in race and ethnicity but in other forms, notably aging. The plan addresses things such as land use, transportation, housing and parks.

The Met Council is governed by a 17-member board whose members are appointed by the governor.

Many parks leaders are stressing a need to pivot away from child-centered parks to trails, which serve the rapidly rising senior population. But minorities tend to be younger and the parents of youngsters.

Many, like Atlas-Ingebretson just this year, are migrating to the suburbs, in her case St. Louis Park — which suggests that the issue doesn’t need to be urban vs. suburban.

The consensus of Monday’s joint session was to cautiously green-light a move by the Met Council staff to pursue more detailed suggestions.

“I think you’re in the right ZIP code here,” said Steve Chavez, who represents a diverse district in northern Dakota County. “But the devil’s in the details.”

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

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