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Black heritage-themed playground opens at Martin Luther King Jr. Park

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Visitors to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in south Minneapolis got their first look Saturday at its new, black heritage-themed playground.

The new playground was dedicated Saturday afternoon at the park on Nicollet Ave S. to coincide with the annual Celebrate Our Beloved Community event, which focuses on the themes of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.

According to the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board, the play equipment includes a replica of the Edmund Pettus Bridge; a climbable mountaintop featuring quotes from Dr. King; a staircase of stacked books by notable African-American authors; and a train with refrigeration cars (which were invented by Minnesotan Frederick McKinley Jones).

"The playground was designed to captivate and inspire children and their parents, providing both fun and learning while strengthening the bond of community and honoring an important legacy," the parks board said.

The playground was borne out of a contentious 2010 plan to create a dog area in the park that split the local community – predominantly along racial lines, as reported by MPR.

The proposal upset some African American residents who consider the park "hallowed ground" after it was renamed in honor of Dr. King following his assassination in 1968, the Star Tribune reports, but the dog park plans made some realize "they'd become complacent about the park."

The newspaper reports that the new playground cost $675,000 – about three times the amount the board normally spends on playground replacements – and despite the park celebrating black heritage, those involved in park improvements are adamant it is an inclusive place for all people.

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