The Metropolitan Council is taking steps to ensure that equity is considered when it invests funding into the regional park system. The Council voted Wednesday to approve the Regional Parks System Equity Toolkit recommendations, which is meant to guide future decisions on park system improvements, programming and policy decisions.
This action follows up on a commitment the Council made in its February 2015 adoption of the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan. Stakeholders from across the region, including members from regional park implementing agencies, regional park partners, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and park users were all involved in developing the equity toolkit, in collaboration with Council staff.
“The people who visit our region’s parks should look like the people who make up the population of the region,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. “We need to be thoughtful and deliberate in looking at how decisions around funding and programming impact whether our parks are welcoming to all residents. I appreciate the time and energy from all the stakeholders who helped develop this toolkit.”
The Equity Toolkit
The equity toolkit is a series of questions that regional park agency partners will need to address when seeking funding from the Metropolitan Council, addressing a few key areas:
Which historically underserved populations will the project serve?
How does this project better serve the population groups identified?
How will the results or this project be measured?
Previous park usage surveys have found that of the roughly 47 million annual visitors to the regional park system, only 10 percent of those are people of color. In 2010 people of color comprised 24 percent of the region’s population and that percentage is expected to grow to 40 percent by 2040.
“Including equity in the discussion will challenge us to collaborate with our park partners to look for new and innovative ways to serve a changing population,” said Duininck.
The Council partners with ten local park agencies. The adopted toolkit will be applied to approximately $25 million in investments in regional park and trails annually. The toolkit will be one part of the overall decision-making process, ensuring that equity is part of the deliberations as investments are made in regional parks.