When words are not enough.
Three days ago, in the midst of a worldwide outpouring of understandable grief and anger over George Floyd’s horrific murder, the Three Rivers Board of Commissioners convened our monthly meeting. Even virtually, we always begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. This time, the last three words of that pledge were particularly poignant, “justice for all.”
Next day, the Three Rivers Board released the following statement, which reaffirms our commitment to move beyond words toward the meaningful actions that help create a community where everyone we serve feels safe, welcome and included, especially our communities of color.
When words are not enough, you act.
Like the rest of our community, we have been deeply affected by the senseless death of George Floyd. We have been struggling with what to say to our Three Rivers park guests, partners, employees, volunteers, and most importantly, our black community members.
While we will never fully understand the pain our black community has been forced to bear, we want you to know that we are listening. And, we add our voice to the many others who are calling for change.
For Three Rivers, this means reaffirming our commitment to listen to and work with our partners and community members to remove barriers to racial equity and ensure our parks, trails and programs truly reflect the cornerstone of our future vision: You Belong Here.
Now is the time to move toward meaningful actions. Actions that help create a community where everyone feels safe, welcome and included.
As the leaders of Three Rivers Park District, we are committed to taking actions that help create a community where everyone feels welcome, especially for those who have not traditionally benefited from our services. In the past few years, we launched a concerted outreach effort to change the traditional way of park and recreation thinking, that “if you build it, they will come.” Instead, Three Rivers is actively working with city, county and nonprofit partners to identify unmet needs, jointly structure new opportunities and bring our park programs directly into communities.
Several years ago, we transitioned our law enforcement department to more of a park ranger model, emphasizing visitor assistance and personal safety rather than traditional policing. We now have twice as many Park Service Attendants, who assist with customer service, as we do licensed Police Officers, and the focus is on ensuring safe and enjoyable park experiences for all our visitors.
While we have made much progress in recent years, we also recognize there is much work left to be done. At our Board meeting last night, we began a discussion about the steps that will be necessary to more quickly reach our goals related to equity and inclusion. To that end, our next Board meeting will include an in-depth review of our progress so far and strategies to expand our engagement with the communities we seek to better reach and serve, with a focus on communities of color.
While we do not pretend to have all the answers for the widespread racial justice challenges that continue to face our community, state and nation, we are strongly reaffirming our commitment to help create a community where everyone we serve feels safe, welcome and included.
The Three Rivers Board of Commissioners
John Gunyou, Board Chair — District 4
Dan Freeman, Vice Chair — District 3
Marge Beard — District 1
Jennifer DeJournett — District 2
John Gibbs — District 5
Steve Antolak — At-Large
Gene Kay — At-Large