07/27/2013 04:29 EDT | Updated 09/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Dogs roam free, make mess in historic Africville Park

As former residents and descendants of Africville gather to mark the 30th annual summer reunion, the president of the Africville Geneology Society says having the site double as an off-leash dog park is disrespectful.

Before the 30th anniversary celebrations could get underway, volunteers were forced to clean up the mess left by dogs and their careless owners.

“Africville Park is still an off-leash dog park and that is one thorn in the sides of residents of Africville. They cannot for the life of them understand why our historic site — which it is a National Historic Site — there are dogs allowed to run free because every year they come here … and complain about dog feces around the park,” Irvine Carvery, president of the Africville Geneology Society, told CBC News.

According to the Halifax Regional Municipality’s website, owners are required to immediately pick up after their dogs.

Carvery said that he and the people of Africville want HRM to remove the off-leash policy from their National Historic Site.

“They’re not happy about it. They feel disrespected by it and like I said every year I receive the brunt of it and every year I reassure them that we’re working with HRM, our partners in this, and we’re going to get this matter resolved. I have every confidence in our councillor Jennifer Watts, that Jennifer’s going to lead the charge in terms of deregistering this park and get the dogs out of here,” he said.

Africville: Halifax’s dark history

Africville, the former black settlement in north-end Halifax, was first settled in the 1830s when former American slaves and other black people moved to the area. But it was neglected by the former City of Halifax and became run-down over the years.

By the 1960s, years of neglect and racism had made Halifax's oldest and largest black neighbourhood one of the worst slums in the country. But the relocation of Africville also meant the end of a vibrant community. As one former resident put it, they lost more than a roof over their heads - they lost their happiness.

Carvery said that the former Africville residents and their descendants have come a long way.

In 2002, the former Africville location was declared a National Historic Site.

In 2010, former residents of the bulldozed community received an official apology from then mayor of Halifax, Peter Kelly.

The land the former Seaview Park was sitting on was officially transferred to the community and renamed Africville Park in 2011.

Last year, the community opened a replica of the historic Africville Church with a museum inside with exhibits portraying what life was like in Africville from the start of the community in the 1800s to the eviction of its residents in the 1960s.

“We’ve closed the door to a very dark chapter in our history but at the same time we’ve opened up a door of opportunity,” said Carvery.

He said his group is looking at the possibility of developing Africville Park into a seniors complex.