Cities Cope with Delicate Issue of Neighborhood Memorials
When someone dies unexpectedly, often a roadside or neighborhood memorial will pop up. As Brooklyn Center copes with a growing memorial to Daunte Wright, Robbinsdale has found a delicate balance with a grieving family and neighbors over a memorial near Quail Avenue and 37th Avenue.
Princess Gardner always brings roses to the side of the road where her son, Tresean Spears, died in January. He was 24.
“I just never thought it would happen to my child. He was robbed. It was a senseless crime,” said Gardner. Today she brought a teddy bear with her.
“I need to come here. I need to feel close to him because this is his last place, the place where he took his last breath,” said Gardner.
There are flowers, balloons and stuffed animals at the site regularly. Now there are even the words “Tre way” spray painted on the street.
Finding a Delicate Balance
The memorial is a place to grieve, and it also creates a delicate balancing act for municipalities. Cities also must adhere to rules that govern road and sidewalk hazards.
“We slowly started receiving calls from people asking what is going on here? why is this here,” said Nichole Saba, community engagement officer for Robbinsdale police. “We’re trying to figure out the balance and how to make everyone happy. But at the same time, making sure our roads and our sidewalks are safe. Then, it comes down to maintaining it, whose job is maintaining it?”
The responsibility falls on the people who place the items there, but if they start to become a hazard, the city has to intervene.
“We want people to understand that we’re not doing this because we don’t care. We’re doing this because we have to worry about everyone’s safety,” said Saba.
Meanwhile, Robbinsdale Mayor Bill Blonigan says that the city doesn’t have a formal policy on roadside memorials, and there is no plan to bring this up for formal action from the council. Blonigan says he hopes that events will not occur in the future to necessitate an official policy.
In the meantime, he says “It is important that people have the opportunity to grieve in a public way, and that may have to be balanced in the future by the public interest in safety throughout the public’s right-of-ways.”
Gardner says her family is respectful to neighbors and they plan to continue honoring Tresean’s life here. They also promise to maintain the site. Their hope is that any neighbors who have negative feelings about the memorial come out and talk to them.
“As a mother, I come and ask for peace. I ask for us to be able to come and just show them that we love him and we’ll go about our merry way,” said Gardner.