City council disavows seven racial covenants from park properties
Racial covenants are an enduring stain on tens of thousands of property deeds throughout Hennepin County. The city council removed that stain on Richfield’s parks to demonstrate its commitment to equity and celebrating the community’s diverse history.
“Our parks should be a place where all visitors feel welcomed, represented and included,” stated Recreation Services Director Amy Markle. Our goal is to renounce the racial covenants on city parklands and raise awareness through telling the story of the detrimental effects they have had in Richfield and many communities across our state and country.”
On Tuesday, July 13, the Recreation Services Department took concrete steps, with the help of the city council, to discharge discriminatory covenants that were found on the properties of seven city parks.
The covenants, while not legally enforceable, were placed on these properties between 1920-1950.
Using data from the Mapping Prejudice Project, staff identified restrictive covenants at Taft Park, Milner Pond, Richfield Lake, Wood Lake Nature Center, Sheridan Park, Jefferson Park and Adams Hill Park.
“It is important to recognize our history, both the good and the bad,” explained Ward I Councilmember Simon Trautmann. “I remember when my multi-cultural family moves to Richfield in the 1980s and we had some neighbors who were suspicious of us, so even though racial covenants have not been enforceable for many years, their effects are still felt in our community today.”
Restrictive, or discriminatory, covenants were a common tool used from the early 1900s through the 1960s to prevent Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), and non-Christians from buying property and living in residential neighborhoods across the country, including in the City of Richfield.
The covenants forbade the sale of the home to any non-white buyers, with severe penalties for buyers who broke ranks.
In 1930, a covenant was placed on a property that is now part of Sheridan Park, which states:
“The premises or any part thereof shall not now, nor at any future time be conveyed, mortgaged or leased by second parties, their successors, administrators or representatives or assigns to any person or persons who are not of pure Caucasian blood or descent.”
“It is important that we discharge any racial covenants associated with Richfield parkland, and recognize the long-lasting harmful impacts this racist tool has had on communities and continue to listen, learn, and seek opportunities that will build a more inclusive and welcoming community, including the park system, for all to enjoy,” reiterated Markle.
Taking steps to remove the covenants on park property is being undertaken as part of the Just Deeds Project, begun in the City of Richfield in April. The Just Deeds Project provides guidance, support and encouragement towards the discharge of racial covenants on Richfield property records. This is accomplished through a partnership with residents, staff and volunteer attorneys.
To learn if a property has a racial covenant, visit the Mapping Prejudice interactive map and search for an address. If a covenant is found on a resident’s property they are encouraged to begin the process of discharging the covenant at: www.richfieldmn.gov/justdeeds.