Common Ground

Gratitude and Parks For All

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It provides a moment for reflection and gratitude before time accelerates through the December holidays and year end. 

As I reflect on this year, I am particularly grateful for the commitment of the people who work for and steward the Minneapolis park system: the volunteers, citizen advisors, elected commissioners and park employees.  The Minneapolis park system sprung from an imperfect democracy.  Established by voter referendum in 1883, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board remains an independent, democratic institution where some of our most contentious public debates are aired.  It provides Minneapolis residents direct opportunities to influence the future of our city through parks.

Perhaps more than in years past, 2020 brought significant areas of debate about what our parks are for and who they serve. I am grateful for the time and commitment of the staff, commissioners and many volunteers who remain faithful to the promise of our parks.  Through an imperfect system, together they hold a community treasure in public trust. 

Public engagement also culminated this year in a plan for the future of the Minneapolis Park system.  Parks for All; The Minneapolis Parks Comprehensive Plan, developed over two years with broad community engagement, is a 10-year framework that outlines the values and goals that will guide future decisions.  It is a wide-ranging document that underscores the myriad of ways our parks serve the people who live in and move through Minneapolis.

Parks for All is a culmination of countless hours of staff time, community input, and Board direction.  Park staff and volunteers actively sought input from diverse perspectives and new voices to shape the plan through community forums, text engagements, public comment and surveys, working groups, and more than 4000 individual “Dream Cards” describing the park system of the future.  The draft Parks for All plan captures the history of our park system and outlines the challenges that will need tending to over the next decade.  It is a document rooted in acknowledging systemic barriers and racism while pointing toward equity.  It is not necessarily a road map of how to get there, but rather a sextant to help navigate a shared journey.  It will also inform some of the work of the Parks Foundation as we seek to be a catalyst for change and a valued partner to the park system. 

The draft plan is now available for public comment through January before it goes to the Park Board for final approval.  You can find the Comprehensive Plan here and provide your input directly to the Park Board.  I encourage you to read the document and provide feedback.

If you find yourself in a Minneapolis park this week or remembering times you used the parks this year, please reflect on the many people committed to providing a park system worthy of our praise and their efforts in establishing safe, inclusive spaces. Whether they are elected, hired, or volunteer, our parks are better because of them, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Images courtesy of MPRB.

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