MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Park Board listened to a long line of angry pleas Wednesday night at a public hearing over a plan to put an dog park inside Minneapolis’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
The park, located on Nicollet Avenue South and 42nd Street, is being considered by the Board as a possible site for an off-leash park. It’s in response to residents identifying a need for a dog park in the 6th park district.
“We could really use this dog park to lift up the whole neighborhood, which is the best honoring we can do of Dr. King,” said Rebecca Horton, who is part of the dog park task force.
However, many neighbors who lived through the civil rights era say it tarnishes King’s name. They point out that back then dogs were used to attack the black community.
“You turned the most savage vicious dogs you could on men, women and children, tearing on parts of our flesh. And those of us that survived, you sent us to jail,” said Spike Moss, who opposes the proposed dog park.
“I’m a dog lover. I got a dog. This is shameful. You should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Gregorry McMoore to the board, who also opposes the dog park.
The emotional testimony moved Park Board Commissioner Jon Olson to take the plan off the table.
“This is extremely offensive. Shouldn’t be a discussion. Not be taking place,” said Olson. “It blows me away we are even continuing this discussion, we should take action to exclude Martin Luther King park from consideration.”
But when the rest of the board didn’t agree in a 5 to vote, some protestors stood and sang the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
After divisive testimony, the two groups still have much to overcome — with conflicting visions of peace in their park.
The Minneapolis Park Board has designated $32,500 for a dog park and, in addition, added another $32,500 to make improvements to the legacy of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
The Board will now create a citizen advisory group that represents both sides of the argument. Board President John Erwin said he hopes the board makes a decision sometime in February.