Parks update

Group studying new dog park sites

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board eliminated Martin Luther King Jr. Park as a possible site for an off-leash dog area on Feb. 2, but not before commissioners committed to finding a new place for dogs to roam free in the area.

The Park Board’s decision came two weeks after a highly contentious meeting in which members of the black community protested the idea of putting a dog area in a park meant for honoring the civil rights leader.

The Board voted unanimously to form a 19-member Citizens Advisory Committee tasked with finding a new place for a dog park in the Park Board’s 6th District in time to have it constructed by this summer.

“There are members of our community who were truly offended by the proposition of a dog park being here,” said Park Board President John Erwin, who originally supported the proposal. “Some of us look at it as a neighborhood park, but it does have regional significance and it became more obvious as this discussion went on.”

The Park Board identified three possible locations for a replacement site:

In Lyndale Park on 1.13 acres of land just north of the Peace Garden;

In Lyndale Park on 0.91 acres of land where there is currently a parking lot near Lake Harriet; and

On 0.42 acres of land in Lyndale Farmstead Park where there is currently a parking lot.

The Park Board, in its resolution, asked that the advisory committee “identify and incorporate other stakeholders in the public participation process.”

“The CAC is encouraged to look for underrepresented neighborhoods, cultural and socioeconomic groups who may not feel engaged in the process,” the resolution stated.

Many in the black community said that they did not feel involved in the process that culminated in the MLK Park proposal.

“It is right to give special consideration to the African American community’s views in this park, the only one named in the Twin Cities after (King’s) namesake,” Erwin said.

Absent at the meeting were Kingfield Dog Park Task Force members who have worked for two years to find a site for an off-leash dog area in their district. They hoped to take a small piece of land near the I35-W sound wall that was a common place for drug deals, fights and prostitution and turn it into a community gathering place.

Brad Bourn, the 6th District Commissioner, authored the resolution. The resolution asked that the park be opened in 2011. The Park Board has already set aside $32,500 for an off-leash dog area in the district. The 6th District has a high density of permitted dogs but is the only district without a dog park.

“We’ve encountered two groups of very good people with the best of intentions,” Bourn said. “One felt as though they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate to the Minneapolis Park Board process only to have a project that they’ve advocated for over the last two years be robbed at the last steps in the public process it deserves according to our ordinances.”

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Cold February 
may keep ice rinks open longer

The Park Board says ice rinks have been in good condition this year and meteorologists say February will be cold. These factors may allow for an extending skating season in Minneapolis.

If weather cooperates, all 47 rinks will remain open until March 6 this year, according to the Park Board. Normally all but a few rinks close Feb. 21.

“Our ice rinks are currently in excellent condition and seeing great use by skaters,” Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller said in a statement. “I am pleased to offer an extended skating season to users of our rinks and am hopeful that the weather will be accommodating to our plans.”