In the early 1980s a group of motivated South Seattlites came together and created a memorial park for Martin Luther King Jr. between South Walker and South Bayview Streets. The 4.3-acre former vacant lot earnestly took shape as a public gathering place in 1984 with an initial investment of $130,000 from a city grant. Now, 20 years later, the city is again poised to fund improvements within the park.
On Tuesday, Aug. 17, around 30 people met with parks and recreation officials at 2100 24 Ave. S. to discuss how a $470,000 chunk of Seattle Pro Parks Levy funding should be used within MLK Jr. Memorial Park.
"It was a very multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, and good meeting," noted project planner Cathy Tuttle. "There were some wonderful ideas."
Currently, the park features a 30-foot, black granite sculpture placed in a reflecting pool at the base of a wide, lawn and cement amphitheater. A cement path leads up from the street to this central structure, which was inspired by Dr. King's legendary "I've been to the mountaintop" speech delivered the day before he was assassinated in 1968. The park also boasts an open hillside layout with a northern view of Seattle's skyscrapers.
However, the park lacks some basic public necessities, such as adequate parking, access for folks with disabilities, and picnic amenities. In general, the park is out of compliance with city codes while simultaneously lacking the infrastructure for city employees to maintain the park at a high standard. Over the last several months, Tuttle's office suggested improvements such as new benches and tables, new pathways and picnic areas, new landscaping and parking areas, as well as some interactive educational elements reflecting the life and legacy of Dr. King.
During the August 17 meeting with city officials, the public was encouraged to add to this list of park improvements.
"The two most interesting ideas, I found, were that people wanted to put in a winter garden, because that's the season that a lot of people use the Martin Luther King Park for MLK Jr.'s birthday in January," commented Tuttle. "Also, [people want to] put in a garden that has African plants, to honor Dr. King's African roots."
Tuttle's office will hold two more planning meetings concerning the park, one on Sept. 14 and the other on Oct. 26.[[In-content Ad]]