Equity and the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan


The Metropolitan Council has prepared a comprehensive development guide for the Twin Cities metropolitan area called Thrive MSP 2040. It “provides a framework for shared vision for the region over the next 30 years.” Part of this planning is defined in the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan, which outlines the Metropolitan Council’s goals and strategies for the development and operation of our world-class regional parks in support of Thrive MSP 2040 goals. The Parks Policy Plan puts forward policy direction to ensure the fulfillment of outdoor recreation benefits for all residents of the metropolitan region now and into the future. How does the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan stack up with respect to the equity goals in the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan?
This plan lays out several goals with respect to equity.
From the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan:
“Equity means connecting all residents to opportunity and creates viable housing, transportation and recreation options for people of all races, ethnicities, incomes and abilities so that all communities share the opportunities and challenges of growth and change.”
The Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan violates this goal on several fronts:
1) Race and Ethnicities – This plan takes away an 18-hole golf course with over 80 years of history with the South Minneapolis Black community. It reduces the current level of service to a sub-standard level of service by reducing the capacity from 18 holes to nine holes. This affects all patrons including the Black and Hispanic communities, teens and kids, South Minneapolis school athletes and senior patrons. Community input from the Black community at Park Board-sponsored feedback sessions and public surveys was very clear that the 18-hole golf course was the community’s desired outcome.
2) Incomes – This 18-hole golf course serves a community that has a widely diverse economic base, from low-income to wealthy families. This is an extremely unique and valuable recreational resource for the City of Minneapolis and its South Minneapolis residents. It is unconscionable to take away this full-service facility from an inner-city neighborhood.
3) Abilities – The current 18-hole facility provides opportunities for everyone, from the best golfers to beginners, and from the youngest starting to play golf to the oldest golfers in the community. Testimonials from patrons of the golf course relate stories of enjoyment from golfers who would still congregate there with friends once they could no longer golf, and from a neighbor who didn’t golf but got immense pleasure from watching those who did golf; he donated two benches so others could share the same enjoyment.
The 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan indicates that promoting equity includes:
“Engaging a full cross-section of the community in decision-making.”
With the current plan, the Minneapolis Park Board did provide a variety of opportunities for the public to weigh in, but it became clear over time that public input was not welcomed or considered important if it did not follow the direction that the Park Board Planning Group wanted. This was particularly true of the retention of the 18-hole golf course. Public response toward the end of the Master Planning process was overwhelmingly for the retention of the 18-hole golf course, yet it was ignored.
The 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan says:
“While the rich and growing racial and ethnic diversity is an asset to continued economic vitality, the region has some of the largest disparities by race and ethnicity of any large metropolitan area in the nation. Importantly, these disparities and shifting demographics have implications for nature-based outdoor recreation providers.”
The Hiawatha 18-hole Golf Course is likely the most racially and ethnically diverse golf course in the state of Minnesota. The last thing that should be done in this day and age is to destroy it, or turn it into a second-rate facility. We need to cherish and maintain the successful equity assets that we already have rather than destroy them.
The 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan says:
“The 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan strives to build upon the good work that the regional park implementing agencies have been doing to advance equity. The Council seeks to strengthen equitable usage of the Regional Parks System, which is a key theme of this plan.”
Again, the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan does just the opposite; it destroys one of the area’s best success stories in the area of equity.
The 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan says:
“The Regional Parks System has been designed and developed to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for all the residents of the region, with facilities and services geared to meet the demands and abilities of the general population.”
Part of any plan that will provide recreation opportunities for all residents of the region is ubiquity. Losing Hiawatha Golf Course would produce a golf desert in a large portion of the city of Minneapolis and nearby communities, affecting thousands of golfers in South Minneapolis, and especially seniors and kids who lack the ability to travel elsewhere for this opportunity.
The Regional Parks Equity Toolkit asks the following question: Which of the underserved populations identified will this project better serve?
The Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan will take away opportunities for equitable access to golf as a recreational activity from people of color, seniors, kids and low-income residents, so it will provide less service to the underserved populations.
The Metropolitan Council should not approve the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan since it violates the equity goals and direction of its own 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan.

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