King Park on Nicollet
Dr. Martin Luther King Park has always been controversial, as is probably appropriate considering its namesake.
When it was created as Nicollet Field in 1915, the Northside Improvement Association protested that too much money was being spent on parks in South Minneapolis, even though at the same time the park board created Bottineau Field in Northeast Minneapolis at a cost of $70,000. Nicollet Field was one of the few parks created at the time that was not next to a body of water, but the park board and Theodore Wirth thought inner city youth had been neglected, so they designed a baseball field with bleachers in the summer and a warming house with a skating rink for the winter. Wirth was happy to note that the rink was well attended in its first year.
On Oct. 9, 1968, the park was renamed to honor the slain civil rights worker.
Recently there has been controversy about whether there should be a dog park on the grounds. This would mean fencing off an area that would be just for dogs and their owners to run unleashed and sniff and greet. But the linking of dogs with the leader of the civil rights struggle seemed too emotional a burden for the neighbors. For some people a dog park in King Park would always bring back memories of large German shepherds attacking peaceful demonstrators and the unfulfilled “promised land” that King spoke of at The March on Washington.
If the linkage were not plain enough, Bob Dylan’s “If Dogs Run Free” spells it out:
If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain
The best is always yet to come
That’s what they explain to me
Just do your thing, you’ll be king
If dogs run free
King Park is a wonderful oasis in the inner city, with a baseball field, a couple of softball fields, a full basketball court, a wading pool and a recreation center big enough to hold local political conventions. For more information call 612-370-4908.