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Indybay Feature
Concord Parks Need Reform
by Let's Grow Concord
Tuesday Apr 13th, 2021 4:22 PM
The governance of parks in Concord needs to be reformed. A year into the Covid crisis, as we get vaccinated and progress back to "normal", Concord residents should look towards parks and nature for celebratory healing. However, new parks projects won't be possible without reformation and citizen action.
It is Spring, it is planting season, and yet there are no new agro-ecological projects in Concord. Gardens and other concepts are blocked by the Director of Director of Parks and Recreation, Steve Voorhies. Under his tenure, the Parks and Recreation Commission has essentially been shuttered for the past 2 years, predating the Covid crisis. Residents are unable to present urban-ecology and urban-agricultural projects to the commission, because there are no meetings. In the meantime, arable land and ecological spaces sit in wait.

The Markham Society, a small and exclusive group of politically connected individuals maintain their privatized control over Markham Park. What was always intended to be a public park and a communal space, is essentially private acreage for a small handful of people. The civic building at Markham which includes botanical literature, and a public restroom is closed from the public access, used only as a private clubhouse for a few politically connected people.

Under the city's bureaucracy, all new garden concepts have to be cleared through Steve Voorhies and the Markham Society (for convoluted reasons related to insurance). Voorhies and the Markham Society is blocking the development of a new garden space at Hillcrest Park. Unused, barren land is available and could be used as a garden for lower-income residents of North Concord. Steve Voorhies refuses to approve public meetings regarding the proposal. The Markham Society refuses to work with the public to develop the project. The arable land at Hillcrest just sits there.

Newhall Park is 126 acres of land in Concord. Steve Voorhies and the Markham Society won't permit community members conceptualize any projects there either. No environmental restoration, no drought tolerant agriculture, no historical anthropological horticultural projects.

This stonewalling is purely political. The Markham Society's political power is in being the city's exclusive botanical society. (Even though their own botanical garden is not properly maintained.) Voorhies' political power is based on keeping the wrong type of people (certain minority populations, people who are economically disadvantaged, etc) from being empowered in city parks.

This needs to change. There will be no change without progressive Concord residents speaking up. The city of Concord needs to rethink what Concord parks are. City government needs to be pressured into empowering residents from all different backgrounds, so residents can restore native plants, grow food, and uses parks as spaces for cultural exchange.

Concord residents must demand the full restoration of the Parks and Recreation Commission, including the full restoration of monthly regular meetings.

Concord residents must demand a public meeting at the city council level to discuss the contract that exists between the Markham Society and the city. If the contract does not meet the needs of the people, then the contract should be ended.

The current governance of the parks in Concord does not reflect the ethnically and culturally diverse make up of Concord's population. The current governance of the parks in Concord does not reflect the LGBTQNbA+ population of Concord. This is unacceptable.

The city government's emails are city manager: Valerie.Barone [at] cityofconcord.org and city council: citycouncil [at] cityofconcord.org Please contact them to support a diversity of citizen lead gardening and ecological projects, and to demand a open process for these types of community projects to be vetted and approved.
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