A piece of the city’s riverfront now bears the name of one of its longstanding champions.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted Feb. 7 to rename the lower portion of Riverside Park after Annie Young, who passed away in January after serving 28 years on the board. Commissioners are considering renaming the entire park after Young.
The lower portion of the Riverside Park will be known as Annie Young Meadow. Becki Smith, Young’s campaign manager, told commissioners that the 28 acres of riverfront land, one of the city’s first parks, held a special place for the former citywide commissioner.
“If anybody asked her which park she liked the most, she would actually say she liked them all because they were all different and unique in their own ways,” she said, “but I will say if anybody asked which held her fondest memories, she would say Riverside Park was the place that held her fondest memories.”
In 2005, former Commissioner John Erwin formally nominated that the lower portion of the park should be named for Young, who was an early adopter of the board’s push to reclaim and develop riverfront property. During her tenure as the board’s second longest-serving member, Young supported water quality, reducing pesticide use and RiverFirst, an initiative that is being realized with high-profile projects like Water Works. As the board’s acting president, Young signed the final paperwork in the acquisition of the Scherer site where the board is now recreating Hall’s Island.
Commissioners voted 7–0 to change the name of the portion of the park alongside West River Parkway from Lower Riverside Park to Annie Young Meadow. The approved resolution puts in place a plan to have a public hearing within 45 days of the Feb. 7 vote regarding the renaming of the entire park to Annie Young Riverside Park. At-Large Commissioner LaTrisha Vetaw was absent for the vote.
District 5 Commissioner Steffanie Musich abstained after voting against a suspension of board rules, which was necessary because of the board’s renaming policy requiring community input. Musich introduced a substitute motion calling for additional public comment in order to follow the policy, though it failed after only drawing support from Commissioner Meg Forney (at-large).
“I cannot support the hypocrisy of honoring a woman who believed in process and community engagement by bypassing that process and community engagement,” Musich said.
The meeting also served as a public celebration for Young, with several of her former colleagues and fellow elected officials speaking on her work with the Park Board.
Brian Rice, the board’s longtime legal counsel, called Young a “person of rare quality.”
“She was an earth protector. She was a historian. She was a shrewd vote counter. She was an idealist. But she was also pragmatic and she knew how to get things done,” he said.
Council Member Cam Gordon, a fellow member of Young’s Green Party, described her as a “troublemaker” with a soft side.
“I know that she could certainly be abrasive, but she could also be really nurturing and caring. She was always looking at how she [could] bring others along and into the fold and raise them up and help them move forward,” he said.
Over the years, Mayor Jacob Frey said, he got several pointers from Young, who relayed decades of local institutional knowledge.
“The historic knowledge that she had about policy, about community building [and] just about love of community in general, was [indispensable],” he said.
Many park staff and younger commissioners said Young served as a mentor.
Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Ringold, also the board’s secretary, said Young stressed the community’s role in the organization.
“She really I think helped staff understand the human side of commissioners,” she said.
Vetaw, a newly elected citywide commissioner, described Young as a “soul sister” who managed to unload a lot of wisdom in her first month on the board.
“In very, very little time I got lots of advice,” she said in a video message.
Musich, who served one term with Young, said she will support her legacy by “being willing to not just go along with the wave.”
“Watching her serve was a great example for all of us because she did not compromise if it meant putting aside her values or her desire to see us produce the best government that we possibly could for the citizens of Minneapolis,” she said.