Park Board Looks to Honor MLK, Soothe Hurt Feelings on Kingfield Dog Park
In response to criticisms that Martin Luther King Park has been neglected—which arose out of opposition to an off-leash dog area in the park—the park board is looking for ways to honor the civil rights leader's legacy.
A study about creating an off-leash dog area in Martin Luther King Park in Kingfield will be released at this evening's park board meeting—although there are some disagreements in the community about whether the presence of dogs would disrespect the slain civil rights leader for whom the park is named.
"There's some push back from senior citizens in the African-American community," said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Brad Bourn (District 6). "That spurred a whole other issue that there's not enough being done at MLK park right now to recognize Martin Luther King's contributions."
Bourn said the park board will be looking at ways to honor King's legacy, whether with maintenance around the memorial statue in the park or the creation of other programs. It will also use a 2001 park board study on alternative sites for off-leash parks.
The extent of the community disagreement is clear in comment cards collected at public meetings this fall. Wade Keller wrote that "the park has been neglected as a whole for quite sometime. (Shame on you)." Keller recommended that the park board "act and act quickly to find another location or this issue will only continue to divide us ALL."
Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) said that while there is a great need for a dog park in the 6th district, it is also important to be respectful to opposition voices, who stress the emotional significance of the park that was renamed in honor of Dr. King in 1968. "The park board has tried very hard to listen to multiple perspectives," she said.
"I've spoken to people on several sides of the issue," Glidden said. "I know there are some strong opinions. One outcome is that organizations might frame a community dialogue about these issues."
Kingfield Neighborhood Association Executive Director Sarah Linnes-Robinson is also working on bridging divisions. She's in discussions with neighborhood organizations on the east side of the Interstate 35 West, where much of the opposition to the park originates. She hopes these relationships will lead to greater understanding. "At this point we are trying to listen to each other," she said.
Indeed, some neighbors, such as Gail Harris, who lives across the interstate in Bryant, believe that a dog park at Martin Luther King Park will help bridge the divide between Kingfield and Bryant neighborhoods. Harris said she thinks a dog park in Kingfield would increase pedestrian traffic in her neighborhood, which would lower instances of petty crime.
The meeting will begin at 4:30 at the MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255, at 2117 West River Rd.