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The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) piloted a racial equity tool when discussing a $2 million renovation of Bossen Field, which has multiple uses including softball fields for teams throughout the city as well as recreational needs of the neighborhood residents.
To get started, the project manager and community engagement staff provided racial equity training to about 10 employees and shared an equity tool used in Seattle and Multnomah County, Oregon. The goal was to think about how decisions are made and to serve all residents. The training was helpful when different concepts were preferred because the team could weigh desires of underserved communities and find solutions that benefit all park users.
Different views could be expected. In the last 20 years, the neighborhood surrounding Bossen Field has become increasing diverse, with African Americans, Latinx residents and African immigrants. The neighborhood also has many renters. On the other hand, people who used the field for softball leagues rarely shared similar demographics. Nearby residents, some of whom preferred soccer to softball, often felt pushed out of the park for league play.
Therefore, the team created an outreach effort that included meetings with racial equity and neighborhood organizers, surveys in multiple languages, and focus groups with Spanish and Somali speakers and families with young children. Outreach events were held at area churches and schools and bilingual Spanish- or Somali-speaking staff knocked on doors to gather information. Online surveys and public meetings were mostly used by athletic league participants.
Staff used comments to shape decisions in the field’s design. Both neighborhood residents and league uses wanted picnic facilities, more walking paths through the park, and improved parking facilities to minimize parking on neighborhood streets. The master plan was changed to add more parking, pathways and picnic areas and open, flexible field space for soccer games was included closer to the high-density housing.
Local contact: https://www.minneapolisparks.org/about_us/leadership_and_structure/department_directory/