Rockford City Market borders expanded, park district says

Joe Marino Park will remain open to the public.
Rockford City Market
Rockford City Market(WIFR)
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 4:59 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The borders of the Rockford City Market will be expanded into Waterside Park following protests near the area over the weekend.

“Closing Rockford City Market for a week provided us some time to formulate a plan and have some critical discussions since being thrust into this difficult situation. As was stated at the meeting last week, we were not comfortable making decisions of this magnitude without the input of our minority team members and minority leaders within the community with whom we have built a reciprocal relationship of trust. We greatly respect and appreciate the input that we have received from these individuals over the last 48 hours,” Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners President Scott Olson said.

The city market was canceled for July 31, the same day 17 protesters were arrested in the E. State Street and Water Street area while blocking traffic.

“Because of the dual ownership of Waterside Park between the Park District and the City of Rockford the Park District can justify allowing Rockford City Market’s boundaries to expand into Waterside Park on Friday nights for the remainder of the market season,” according to the Rockford Park District in an announcement Monday afternoon.

Waterside Park is maintained by the Park District, but the City of Rockford owns and operates Millennium Fountain inside the park. Joe Marino Park will remain open to the public.

Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners President Scott Olson, Executive Director Jay Sandine, and Rockford Park District Police Chief Theo Glover were approached by Mayor Tom McNamara and Rockford City Market leaders to close Joe Marino Park and Waterside Park where Millennium Fountain sits in downtown Rockford, according to the Rockford Park District.

“No person or persons may interfere with the intended use, enjoyment, peace, good order, or condition of the park, facility, or amenity intended for a specific purpose,” according to the Rockford Park District. “Lawlessness, aggression, bullhorns, or sirens will not be tolerated when using public spaces and will be enforced by Rockford Park District Police, along with City of Rockford and Winnebago County.”

The district claims to have already begun to work with various organizations and groups that are committed to helping to foster dialogue throughout the community regarding race relations.

“We believe that neighborhood parks should remain open and free for the public to use. People have the right to assemble and their right to free speech. We ask that people respect the parks and keep them free from illegal activity or inappropriate behavior. We urge protesters to keep the parks free from profanity, vulgarity, and adhere to the park ordinances which is exactly what is happening at Food Truck Tuesday at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. It is our belief that dialogue is needed during this time. Dialogue can lead to a better understanding which can hopefully lead to trust. Trust can then lead to change and we are committed to doing our part in creating a community that is free from racism and inequality. We are willing to lead this conversation regarding race relations and it is our desire to be a unifying organization and a catalyst for inclusiveness,” Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine said.

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