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A civil rights walking path, a memorial wall honoring local civil rights leaders and a pavilion with outdoor seating are among the highlights of a planned expansion for Raleigh’s Martin Luther King Jr. memorial garden.
Work is expected to begin sometime in 2014 on the park, which opened in 1990 and is described as the first public park in America dedicated solely to the memory of King and the civil rights movement.
Advocates say the park needs an upgrade to accommodate students, tour groups and civil rights veterans. In addition to the new features, a master plan approved this month by the City Council also calls for lighting, new benches, landscaping and an area for bus parking.
The city’s five-year building plan sets aside $385,000 for an expansion. Raleigh leaders paid a design firm $10,000 to draw up a concept for the makeover.
As the park has aged, advocates have called attention to the need for improvements.
“It’s been 15 years since we started working on expanding the gardens,” said Bruce Lightner, son of the city’s first and only black mayor, the late Clarence E. Lightner.
“A few more years is not going to kill me. I wish they could do it sooner. They’re going to have to take money out of multiple years’ budgets.”
McNeely Associates, the original designer of the park, will return to oversee planning and construction.
In 2003, Raleigh officials bought 1.7 acres of neighboring land to make room for the expansion of the park at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road.
A memorial wall boasts 2,500 named bricks recognizing individuals, businesses, churches and organizations that supported the development of the site in the 1980s.
An additional wall planned as part of the second phase will consist of bricks named in honor of private donors.