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The $1.4 million conversion of the turn-of-the-century wading pool in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park into a fishing pond is under way, but, like trout chasing flies, questions continue to surface.

Four dozen neighbors have signed petitions to halt the project.

The petitioners "demand that the work to covert the park wading pool into a fish pond be stopped immediately and the project be changed to improve the park. Not destroy the park."

Masten Council Member Byron W. Brown, who supports the conversion, has joined with the Martin Luther King Jr. Steering Committee and Olmsted Parks Conservancy in sponsoring a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Buffalo Museum of Science to answer questions about the work.

"State Health Department and state Office of Historic Preservation rules and regulations make most ideas for renovating the wading pool impossible," Brown said.

A 1990 feasibility study placed the reconstruction cost at $2 million.

Dennis Maloney, parks coordinator for the city's strategic planning office, said preliminary work began a couple weeks ago and is well along.

"We've removed the perimeter curbing," Maloney said. "They are digging a new perimeter wall and excavating the pool bottom for a new pier for a light post. We are doing some demolition."

Plans call for a five-acre, circular pool with a 520-foot diameter and depths of 2 to 3.5 feet.

The old pool was last used as a spray pool 10 years ago, Brown said.

The Masten Community Development Corp. will run the fish-release program with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy as a partner.

"It will be patterned after a highly successful catch-and-release urban-fishing program in Central Park in New York City," Brown said.

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