Minneapolis park board invests excess funds in youth violence prevention

As part of the Walt Dziedzic Innovation Fund, $50,000 will go toward youth outreach in Cedar-Riverside.

The+Riverside+Park+sign+on+a+snowy+Sunday%2C+Feb.+21.+The+Minneapolis+Park+Board+voted+for+%24400%2C000+to+go+toward+youth+outreach+to+help+prevent+violence.+%2450%2C000+will+go+to+youth+outreach+in+Cedar-Riverside.

Shannon Doyle

The Riverside Park sign on a snowy Sunday, Feb. 21. The Minneapolis Park Board voted for $400,000 to go toward youth outreach to help prevent violence. $50,000 will go to youth outreach in Cedar-Riverside.

Jasmine Snow, City Reporter

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) voted earlier this month to allocate about $400,000 toward several youth violence prevention and intervention programs throughout the Twin Cities.

Approved at the Feb. 3 board meeting, $300,000 was dedicated toward youth violence prevention enhanced programming throughout the city, with $50,000 aimed at Cedar-Riverside youth between the ages of 13 and 18.

The money comes from a more than $2.8 million excess in the park board’s budget, with other dollars going toward paying off mortgages for park buildings and senior programming.

The decision to devote funding toward youth violence prevention was spurred by recent increases in youth violence trends, both in the Twin Cities and nationally, said MPRB president Jono Cowgill.

“There’s been a substantial amount of concern on the board about what the park board can do about the uptick in violence across the city and just how we’re supporting young people in the parks,” Cowgill said. “All [engagement efforts] are some of the investments that create the intangible fabric of a healthy community.”

Tyrize Cox, park board superintendent, will be in charge of the enhanced programming. She said the work is especially important given the trends and the coming of spring as the weather warms and options for how young people spend their time broadens.

“I think this is absolutely the right work at the right time,” Cox said. “We look forward to engaging some of our community partners to join us in this so that we create a much different environment for young people.”

Cox said while these funds will go toward addressing prevention and intervention with youth ages 12 to 22, she plans to focus on engagement with who she called “invisible” or “bubble” kids — youth specifically between the ages of 17 and 22.

“We have started to craft what their programming will look like, and it will be around the things that helped them kind of launch into adulting,” Cox said. “We’ll launch into what it looks like to be an active participant in our community … [and] how we support them in moving from where they are in their lives to the next stage of life.” Part of this funding has been allocated toward a variety of ongoing youth initiatives. The park board allocated $50,000 toward supplies and equipment for StreetReach, a youth engagement program that was established in 2008.

In addition to StreetReach — which has been primarily funded through the board’s general fund since 2016 — the money will go toward 43 permanent positions with Teen Teamworks, a program meant to help youth ages 14 to 24 with skills training and work through the park board. The park board’s yearly budget already included $18.2 million for youth and recreation center programs and $3.8 million for athletics and aquatics, according to an email from MPRB spokesperson Dawn Sommers.

District 1 Commissioner Chris Meyer, whose district Marcy-Holmes, Southeast Como and Prospect Park and the University of Minnesota, said the long-term impact of how the funds would be distributed was an important consideration by the board.

“What we didn’t want to do was just hire people for a year and then let them go after the funds run out,” Meyer said. “We wanted to make that a long-term investment.”