Parks update

Dog Park at MLK protested, but residents begin working on legacy

A group of leaders and concerned residents from the black community stood in firm opposition to an off-leash dog area at Martin Luther King Park in Kingfield during a Jan. 5 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meeting.

The group, which calls itself MLK-CIA (Citizens In Action), made very clear that it does not support the idea of a dog area on a place it believes is meant to honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The months-long debate over the park has, however, been a positive in the eyes of many. The evening following the Park Board meeting about 50 members of the black community, dog park supporters and others met at the park to discuss how to best honor King’s legacy. It’s the first in a series of meetings to decide what to do with a $33,000 Park Board allocation meant for programs or features at the park to honor King. At one point, the group sang “We Shall Overcome.”

“I know our request to consider Martin Luther King Park as a location for an off-leash area is kind of what brought a lot of this to the forefront because it made people sort of take a second look at the park and think about what it is that they appreciate about the park and would like to see improved about the park,” said Ben Harris, a Bryant neighborhood resident and member of the Dog Park Task Force.

The Park Board on Jan. 5 was scheduled to vote on a resolution that would have created a 24-member Citizens Advisory Committee that would choose a site for a dog park in the Park Board’s Sixth District, which covers much of Southwest Minneapolis.

The Park Board’s Planning Committee selected 24 people or organizations from the community — Park Board members, City Council members, neighborhood association boards and nonprofit organizations. Then one person would be appointed to sit on the CAD.

MLK-CIA members said they felt that more organizations that represent minority groups should be included in the appointments. The group is concerned that building a dog park on a site dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is disrespectful. Further, members said the park space should be used for children, not pets.

After the group brought their concerns to several Park Board members, Brad Bourn, the Sixth District commissioner and others had the resolution  removed until both sides meet to compromise how the a site should be selected. Another possibility often mentioned is Lyndale Farmstead Park.

Supporters say an off-leash dog area at MLK will bring together the Kingfield neighborhood and help build the community.

The Park Board was scheduled to meet Jan. 19, the day the Southwest Journal is printed. Look to the next issue for updates.

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Residents start fundraising for new tennis courts at Linden Hills Park

Sara Chechik lives less than a block from the Linden Hills Park. She watches as Southwest High School tennis teams play matches against big, well-funded suburban high schools and is appalled by the chipped and cracked courts.

Chechik began asking the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board a  year ago for court repairs. She was not just concerned for the tennis teams, but also for inner city tennis programs and other groups and residents that use the courts.  

But Chechik said the Park Board did not have money for the courts, so she and Linden Hills residents Denise Greip and Patrick Sarver are leading a committee that is trying to raise $200,000 to completely reconstruct the four tennis courts and a basketball court in the park.

Chechik said $200,000 would pay for the old courts to be demolished, new courts put in and new fencing installed. Most importantly, it would cover the cost to remove the existing soil beneath the courts and replace it with soil that drains. Because water does not drain easily, the courts heave and buckle, causing the surface to crack.

The fundraising committee, which is working under the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, is pursuing a grant of up to $40,000 from United States Tennis Association. Chechik said “Quick Start” nets would be installed. Those nets, which are removable, split regular courts into four and allow small children to play tennis.

The group is beginning its fundraising drive at the Linden Hills Winter Fest on Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., at the Linden Hills Park, 43rd and Xerxes. Along with other activities at the event, participants will be able to play winter tennis and learn more about the renovations.

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council is also seeking tax-deductible donations for the courts. Donations can be made online at givemn.razoo.com/story/Linden-Hills-Tennis-Courts or to the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, P.O. Box 24049, Minneapolis, MN 55424.