Racial and economic inequalities are well documented in American housing, education, and criminal justice. But little attention has been paid to disparities in access to the country’s public parks. In America, bike trails and baseball fields are luxurious perks of many affluent neighborhoods, boosting property values and creating a sense of community. Meanwhile, in many inner cities, public parks are magnets for crime and casualties ofdisinvestment.
With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time for a civil-rights movement to brew in Minneapolis, which for three years in a row has snagged the title of best parks system in the US, as awarded by The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit. It’s an honor that the city is quite proud of, as most residents can find a well-groomed park within walking distance from their homes. But the city’s serene lakes, smooth jogging trails, and manicured fields have become the backdrop for a bitter racial battle, with Minneapolitans of color saying that the parks system—access to it, spending on it, and staffing of it—is primarily geared toward the city’s rich, white residents.
It would be hard to find a city where residents are more passionate about their public parks, or where the parks board wields more power. Unlike most cities, where parks are managed by a department within city hall that answers to the mayor, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board is a semi-autonomous agency with nine elected commissioners and one superintendent.
[For more of this story, Alexia Fernandez Campbell, go to http://www.theatlantic.com/bus...public-parks/502238/]