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As Ryan Saddler looks over the new MLK Park near downtown Davenport he likes what he sees. And he likes what the park will soon become: a place to celebrate, and a place that will be a reminder of the fight for equity and justice.“I’m very happy with it. …. It’s essentially done. There’s just some enhancements to add,” said Mr. Saddler, the CEO of Friends of MLK, as he looked over the park on a sunny, warm day on Thursday, Feb. 8. The Friends of MLK is the nonprofit group that has planned and pushed for the park’s creation for years. The park, located in a former vacant lot at the corner of Brady and Fifth streets and next to the MLK Interpretive Center, was built in honor of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was in the planning stages for years before finally getting the needed funding – around $1 million – and was built by Davenport-based Estes Construction. That construction was completed last October. Since being completed, people using the park have also enjoyed the new place. “People have been loving the place. … One person made the comment ‘It feels like a welcoming space.’ That’s exactly what we want it to be,” Mr. Saddler added. The community soon will get to officially welcome the new MLK Park. A grand opening ceremony has been scheduled for Sunday, April 28. (The specific events and time of the opening ceremony have yet to be announced.) Mr. Saddler added that other celebrations and events also will be held in the park later this year. He believes some of those will be craft fairs, movie-in-the-park fests and artistic stage performances. However, those events are still in the works. Actually, MLK Park was scheduled to host at least two events last fall – including a concert. However, stormy weather got in the way and the events had to be moved to indoor venues, he added. Some of the features of the park include:
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- Places for panels that will have various themes, such as civil rights history, local pioneers of civil rights, and Hispanic heritage themes.
- A stage to host concerts and speakers.
- Room for vendors to set up.
- In the corner of the park is a structure that contains 12 plaques to honor the groups, businesses and people who financially supported the long-awaited park project. That structure is topped with the MLK quote: “The time is always right to do right.”
- There also is green space – consisting of artificial turf, not grass – in the middle of the park. Mr. Saddler said he wanted ground material that looks good and is low maintenance.
- There are also several benches and seats in the park.