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Residents-Only Park-Use Curbs Void in Michigan

Associated Press

A law barring people who do not live in Dearborn from going to its city parks is unconstitutional, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The 3-0 decision said the ordinance violates constitutional bans on racial discrimination and unreasonable police searches.

The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the ordinance adopted by Dearborn voters in November, 1985.

“I am absolutely grateful for this kind of Christmas present from the courts that will hopefully put an end to one of the most racially divisive issues in southeastern Michigan,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU in Michigan.

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‘On a Better Track’

Arthur Johnson, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, said he believed the ruling “will help in getting the government of Dearborn on a better track in how it relates to citizens of other communities.”

Dearborn City Atty. William Hultgren said city officials were studying the ruling and probably would not decide whether to appeal for a couple of months.

Residents of mostly white Dearborn had complained that parks, swimming pools and baseball diamonds along the city’s border with Detroit were being used by non-residents.

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They approved an ordinance restricting use of parks to Dearborn residents and requiring park users to produce driver’s licenses or other identification proving their residency if stopped by police.

Upholds Lower Court

Tuesday’s decision upheld a Wayne County Circuit Court ruling overturning the ordinance. Non-residents have been free to use Dearborn parks since the court fight began.

The appeals court said banning non-residents violated a provision in the Michigan constitution prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race.

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