Park Board Votes Unanimously Against Dog Park at MLK Park
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board also voted to form the Citizen Advisory Committee to recommend a location and design for a dog park in the 6th District.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously to take Dr. Martin Luther King Park off the table in the search to create an off leash area dog park in the park board’s sixth district on Wednesday.
Commissioner Brad Bourn motioned to establish a Citizen Advisory Committee to recommend another location for the dog park, with the stipulation that Martin Luther King Park not be considered. Although there was no public feedback at the meeting, over 20 dog park opponents who attended the meeting spoke of their great relief afterwards. As for the park board commissioners, many of them strongly chastised those who made inappropriate comments and threats at the previous meeting, saying those comments didn't factor into their decision.
While neighbors have advocated for a dog park at King Park for the past two years, elders in the black community voiced opposition beginning this summer, saying a dog park there was offensive to King’s memory. Two weeks ago, when the public was invited to share their feedback at a public meeting about a dog park at MLK, there were a couple of incidents of threats by African American Spike Moss and loud, angry outbursts by Al Flowers, followed by several community members singing “We Shall Overcome.” It was an emotional high point to a divisive issue.
Brad Bourne said that he was glad the process was moving forward. He said mistrust had grown among stakeholders, but they had been robbed of the last steps of trying to find a compromise. “I’m personally discouraged at the amount of venom that neighbors have been using against neighbors,” he said. He also said that while he didn’t necessarily agree with opponents of having a dog park at King Park, he appreciated the passion.
Bourn blamed the conflict over the park on the board’s inaction, particularly in its “unwillingness to even entertain a CAC," (Citizen Advisory Committee), which he said would have allowed neighbors to hear each other's concerns. Bourn, a new park board member, thanked everyone on both sides of the issue for their participation.
In Bourn’s motion, the new CAC would report back in 45 days, and seek to serve underrepresented neighborhoods within the 6th district for the new dog park.
Commissioner Annie Young missed the meeting two weeks ago, but she said she cried when she watched the videotape and heard the singing of “We shall Overcome.” She also said that she found some of the comments at the last meeting offensive. “The dog park is a smoke screen for much larger disparities,” Young said. “We must move forward. We must unify...The dog park has put the issue of race back on the table in Minneapolis.”
This outcome, she said, provided the opportunity to educate the community. “It’s a constant learning experience,” she said. “Equality is not an easy thing to achieve, but we can’t give up trying.”
Commissioner Bob Fine also missed the last meeting, and though he supported Bourn’s resolution, he said the real problem is that the city is still missing a dog park in the middle of the city, that all the current dog parks are near Minneapolis’ boundaries. He urged the CAC to look for sites toward the center.
Commissioner John Erwin said he voted against a dog park at King Park because members of the community are offended at the idea, and that the significance of the park became more obvious as the decision-making process went on. He also said it became clear through the past few months that King Park wasn’t physically adequate to hold a dog park. He spoke of respecting those who are older than him, and respecting the black community.
Following the unanimous vote to form the new CAC and the exclusion of King Park from consideration, Sandra Richardson, a vocal opponent of the dog park said she was relieved and happy. “I’m happy for myself and for elders in the community. I’m thrilled to continue to make Martin Luther King Park a living memorial moving forward.”
Charles Mays, another opponent of a dog park at MLK, has already participated in meetings to work toward honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory at the park. “Now we have to work on getting the park beautified.”