On Sept. 2, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) held a public meeting regarding a proposal for an off-leash dog area in Martin Luther King Park, the second formal listening session held regarding this proposal. At-large Park Commission-ers John Erwin, Bob Fine and Annie Young, along with Commissioner Brad Bourn and City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, were all there to listen to the opinions of the approximately 150 community members gathered in the gym.
At the previous public meeting in July, there was some opposition voiced, in particular to an alternate location that includes an abstract sculpture dedicated to the memory of Dr. King. Commissioner Erwin made it clear that this location had been eliminated from consideration in response to the objections. Council Member Glidden also emphasized the importance of refurbishing the sculpture and honoring Dr. King’s memory in the park, recommending that this move forward immediately, separate from the off-leash area process.
About 40 people spoke during the comment period. They were divided evenly between supporters and opponents of an off-leash area in ML King Park. They were also divided by race: Nearly all of those speaking against the proposal were African American, and nearly all of the supporters were white. Many of the African Americans spoke of feeling that a dog park would dishonor the memory of Dr. King and those who fought with him for the dream of racial equality. Some of the white off-leash area supporters admitted that they could not understand these feelings; they talked instead about how a dog park builds community and safety.
In the end, some commissioners expressed support for a dog park in the area, but suggested looking at other nearby sites. The work on the memorial sculpture will get started soon. Those who attended this meeting will be notified about next steps in the process.