The Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is a national leader in accessible parks and open space. But for the residents of St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, finding open, outdoor spaces has proven to be more of a challenge. Luckily, some youth residents at CommonBond’s Skyline Tower community have been heavily involved in the development of the new Midway Peace Park, and their dedication to their community has been nothing short of extraordinary.
While park space exists in St. Paul’s Midway area, much of it is private, geared toward very young children, or inaccessibly far from Skyline Tower. The most notable obstacle has been the nearby highway, which separates Skyline from the nearest public park. This highway creates a multitude of safety concerns, preventing many Skyline youth from having access to public park space. Historically, highways and other infrastructure have worked to segregate neighborhoods by race or class, and these unspoken divides can be harmful to those who are the most marginalized. “Highways usually split more affluent communities from less affluent communities,” says Rachel Ladd, Youth Program Specialist at Skyline Tower. “Midway Peace Park serves as a good way to counteract some of the negative effects of the highway.”
Part of the development of Midway Peace Park has been led by the Design Advisory Committee, which invites various stakeholders and members of the community to meetings to offer input on features for the park. One of these community members was 13-year-old Najad, who has been a Skyline resident her entire life. When she heard about these community meetings, she knew she wanted to get involved. “I was thinking about our community and how the park would be designed,” she says, “I wanted to get good ideas from the people in my building so that they could have fun at the park!”
From that moment on, Najad demonstrated leadership by serving as an advocate for her fellow Skyline residents. She attended every meeting, often with other friends from Skyline, eager to learn more about how the park was developing. Najad would then go to Skyline Tower community meetings, explain what she had learned, and field questions from other residents. After that, the teens would relay to the Design Advisory Committee what the residents of Skyline wanted to see at the park. “All of the residents felt like they had an input,” observed Ladd.
Najad and the other youth at Skyline presented some impressive ideas for the park, including a water feature, climbing wall, and plenty of open space for community gatherings. Najad says her motivation to work hard lies in her love for her CommonBond community. “I want to see kids happy, and I want parents to see their kids gathering together and being happy.”
The hard work of Najad and her fellow teens at Skyline show how residents at CommonBond Communities can foster strong connections with one another, with the surrounding community. The strength of these connections will ensure that Midway Peace Park serves the residents of Skyline Tower for years to come.