I read this article by Tyzaguirre at Mpls Mirror about some planned soccer fields and a covered picnic area to be built in Powderhorn Park. Initially, I was interested in the article because I happen to live across the street from Powderhorn Park. As I read the article, however, I became very intrigued by the types of arguments she was using to support her thesis.
Her ultimate thesis is one I can agree with. She quotes herself thinking upon hearing the proposal:
“Hey! Wait a minute… not so fast. There are other things that those of us that live near and frequent the park might like to see added before this happens.”
Then she writes:
“I live right across the street from Powderhorn and I wasn’t notified of any new development or even the possibility or discussion to see what could be done. No one asked us to weigh our options.”
“We need to be given the opportunity to voice our opinions, concern, and our desires! Then and only then, should the formulation of planning begin.”
I agree. The park should reflect the desires of of the users, and the park board should be taking measures to involve the public in their decisions. Whether or not they do an adequate job of this, I can’t say. I don’t pay enough attention to the park board to notice had they tried to involve me anyway.
But then her article takes some interesting turns, and some of her arguments left me scratching my head.
“Just so we’re clear on this subject, I am not a newbie to the neighborhood. I’ve seen many changes occur in the neighborhood including Powderhorn Park since I moved into our home when I was a young girl some forty years ago. I don’t care about the “changing demographics” of the neighborhood; my family was and is part of the demographic. We’re not some piece of trash to be thrown away.”
I’m not sure how building a soccer field amounts to her being “thrown away,” but essentially, her argument is “I was here first.” Changing demographics make a big difference in planning decisions, and frankly, I’m not sure that how long a person has lived in a neighborhood makes any difference. I understand how a long-time resident of a neighborhood can become frustrated if planning decisions seem to favor those who seem less invested in the neighborhood, but ignoring changing demographics, or favoring one portion of the population over another is poor planning.
“From what I understand, the park staff pushing for these changes don’t even live in the neighborhood.”
I doubt the park board hires staff based on where they live. In fact, if the park staff “pushing for [the] changes” did live in the neighborhood, some people would argue that it might be a conflict of interests.
“I assume that people move to my neighborhood because they like it, not because they don’t and simply want to turn it into something more to their liking.”
I suspect that people move into the neighborhood both because they like it and because they want to have a positive influence on it.
“They could have beautified the park; creating a band shell for music, movies, and an amphitheatre They could have cleaned up and rejuvenated the exercise markers located around the park, kept up the grounds, planted some beautiful gardens, maybe added a fountain or water feature, clean up the island, and that filthy green lake, maybe make it into a swimming pond. They could have fixed up and expanded the wading pool for small children to enjoy. A fenced off dog park for King and Pal to run freely would have been nice. They could have set up art spaces around the lake, so artists could display their work on Sundays, like people do along the beach in Santa Barbara, CA.”
Yes, these are all options. But what’s interesting is that she doesn’t say why any of her proposals are better than a soccer field or a picnic pavillion. They’re just alternate proposals.
“My idea is rather than build something that will not be utilized by all, build on what we have and make it better for everyone.”
I would argue that a soccer field and a picnic pavilion accomplish that goal pretty well – certainly as well as the dog park or art spaces she proposed.
“I’m concerned about the lack of available parking in the area to accommodate the types of volume this sport draws, especially if it is a designated soccer area.”
Now we’re back in familiar territory. There hasn’t been a proposal made in the past 50 years that somebody hasn’t opposed by citing lack of parking and increased traffic.
She makes a number of other arguments about crime and ethnicity that I won’t discuss here. There’s also an interesting statement about extending the Midtown Global Market that left me really scratching my head. Anyway, I just thought some of her ideas were interesting. I want to reiterate that, ultimately, I agree with her overall point (that residents should be involved in the planning process), but she totally lost me in the details.