Waterloo City Council approves Peace Walk Memorial - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo City Council approves Peace Walk Memorial at Washington Park

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Waterloo City Council approved a controversial plan to put a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Waterloo park.

It would create a peace walk memorial in Washington Park near downtown commemorating Dr. King's 1959 visit to the city.

The privately funded $2.8 million project would cut a path directly through the heart of the park.

Opponents say that would dramatically change the historic park and take away the original intent of the it - to honor George Washington.

But some say transforming the park will bring more people to it.

After two years of controversy and sometimes heated debate, the council approved the proposal in a 4-3 vote.

Council member Bob Greenwood held the deciding vote.

He says he rejected the plan two years ago because of a competing project but voted yes this time.

"It's been out there long enough. They've done their diligence. They'd like to have a location and I think the location would fit in, being in the historic neighborhood area with the Grout Museum," said Greenwood.

For Frieda Weems, the vote meant a celebration complete with hugs and tears.

For four years, she's worked to make the MLK, Jr. Peace Walk Memorial a reality.

Her mother, Anna Mae Weems, brought Dr. King to Waterloo.

"My mother was part of this very unique history that no-one else in the nation has and we want to acknowledge that and show just how great the Cedar Valley is, especially in 1959 when the nation was the most divisive and the most segregated but not in Iowa," said Frieda Weems.

Before the vote, some neighborhood leaders told the council the project should move forward - just not at Washington Park.

"Washington and Lincoln are the two twin parks and some of the oldest in the country. We believe George Washington deserves to have it named after him. We don't think it has to be taken over by the MLK," said Church Row Neighborhood Association Chairperson Mary Potter.

"There's a tremendous back story to this Washington Park project is it's more than this community, this man. Of course, there are memorials to this wonderful man everywhere but it's this unique history here in the Cedar Valley and he changed the focus of the Cedar Valley," said Frieda Weems.

The memorial would document Dr. King's time in Waterloo and his meeting with Church Row ministers during his trip.

Construction on the memorial may be several years away.

The MLK Peace Walk Committee will need to raise the money to get it built and the council would have to sign off on the final design.

In the agreement with the city to allow for the memorial to be in Washington Park, construction on the memorial will have to begin within 6 years or else the deal is off.

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