Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- The neighborhood fight over a popular park became heated in the Bywater on Tuesday night.

The city is moving forward with plans to upgrade Markey Park, which will eliminate what has become an unofficial dog park.

However, some neighbors say their voices aren't being heard.

'In the '80s this park was really for drug addicts and garbage strewn all over,' said Bywater resident Delaney Martin.

After years of neglect, a neighborhood booster club turned Markey Park into what it is today.

'I think it's ironic that the people that made this park into the useful, viable community space that serves a wide spectrum of people in this community should now be taken out of the community's hands,' Martin said.

Now New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) has plans to upgrade the park, putting an end to this unofficial dog stomping ground.

'I'm going to say what I've been saying publicly: We have leash laws, we also have poop scoop laws as well. The city has at this present time one official dog park, City Bark,' said NORDC CEO Victor Richard.

The city has teamed up with the Trust for Public Land, which is funding a $250,000 renovation of the Bywater park. Richard says a dog run will soon be part of the Reinventing the Crescent Project just blocks away.

'That was also part of our strategic planning. If we're going to have this dog run as part of reinventing the crescent, it doesn't make sense to duplicate services,' said Richard.

On Tuesday night at the Bywater neighborhood association meeting, outspoken opponents arrived upset by the dog park's imminent closure.

'We want part of Markey Park to remain an off-leash dog park,' said one resident.

'This should be taken up with NORDC,' said Bywater Neighborhood Association President Mandy Pumilia.

Critics of the park's project say despite community input, their voices continue to be ignored.

'I ask you as president of our neighborhood association to come together with the leaders of our group that want to revisit the three plans submitted,' said Bywater resident Rhonda Findley.

'I think that's the challenge in this neighborhood. It's divided. There are a lot of people that really want to have green spaces to engage in physical activity or just have a picnic. You can't have a picnic with a bunch of dogs running around,' said Lisanne Brown with the neighborhood association, which is working to find another space where man's best friend can roam free.

'We've been trying to identify other empty lots. There are several HANO properties in the neighborhood that could potentially become off-leash dog areas,' said Brown.

The city plans on closing Markey Park in the coming weeks. A city spokesperson says no official date has been set.

The renovation project is expected to take 90 days to complete.

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