Park Board Allots $32,500 Each for MLK Memorial and Dog Park
On the 55-year anniversary of Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board committed to funding a memorial for another civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Clarification: I removed a reference to a comparable project at Lake Calhoun because the project received no funding.
In a move designed to address community concerns that Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy was being neglected, the park board voted to direct equal funding towards the civil rights leader's memorial and the first off-leash dog park in the 6th park district. It will cost $32,500 for each project.
Neglect of the statue and King's memorial became an issue this summer when public meetings were held to discuss the possibility of the off-leash dog area in Martin Luther King Park. Some residents, many of whom are elders in the African-American community, were unhappy that more had not been done to preserve King's legacy.
Martin Luther King Park was named in honor of the slain civil rights leader on Oct. 9, 1968. The memorial statue, titled "Freedom Form," was built in 1972 by an artist named Daniel LaRue Johnson.
Park board staff said during the finance meeting that the statue is in quite good condition, according to a 2010 review. They estimated the cost for stabilization work and grounds-keeping at $750.
Sixth District Commissioner Brad Bourn objected to the $750 amount. Cleaning the statue, he said was not enough. "I don't know if spending $750 to clean a statue is a significant sign we are taking [concerns about the memorial's neglect] seriously," he said.
Commissioner Annie Young agreed. "$750 dollars is not what we have been talking about," she said.
Later in the meeting, Bourn went back to the issue of the statue. "$750 dollars is exactly the type of symbolism that the community is upset about," he said.
Bourn proposed an amendment that would dedicate money from the neighborhood capital fund and a surplus from dog license fees to fund both the dog park and the memorial.
After a bit of discussion, Young made a change to Bourn's amendment by saying that each project should be funded equally—meaning $32,500 would go to the dog park and $32,500 would go to the memorial
Commissioner Vreeland opposed Young's amendment. "I watched the $50,000 water fountains," he said, referring to the city of Minneapolis public art project that attracted criticism. "People have fixed incomes. I'm not ready to spend a lot of money on a statue." He urged the other commissioners not to vote for the amendment.
Young's amendment passed in a five to four vote. It will now be presented before the Minneapolis City Council on Dec. 13.
Also at the meeting, staff presented their study on proposed sites for the dog park. Now that the dog park is funded, the board will set up a community advisory committee to further investigate potential sites, Bourn said.