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Neighbors frustrated by process behind park name change

January 10, 2019

Neighborhood frustration is reportedly high as plans to change the name of East Park continue.

“It has left many in the neighborhood pretty upset,” said Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, president of the Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association.

She said most of the hurt feelings surround the process, rather than the proposed name change to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

“I would love to have that name, but I cannot abide by the way this happened,” she said.

The Park Board voted Dec. 4 to rename East Park in honor of the slain civil rights leader. The request came from a community group with the goal of holding a dedication ceremony on Jan. 21, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The neighborhood association was not informed of the request before the name change was approved.

On Tuesday, Kirkpatrick suggested Rochester’s Park Board consider delaying the name change.

While Donavan Bailey, a member of the community group that suggested a name change, told the Park Board it had the right to consider reversing its Dec. 4 decision, but only one member supported doing so.

“The process was not good,” Board Member Richard Dale said, echoing opposition he voiced in December when he called for reaching out to the neighborhood.

Other board members acknowledged the process was flawed but voiced support for maintaining the direction.

“I think to put if off right now would be a flashpoint in the other direction,” Park Board Member Chad Ramaker said. “We’re in a lose-lose situation.”

Jacqueline Mickow, whose husband, Dale, is an Eastside Pioneers board member, said the Eastside residents need to hear that the decision is not an affront to them.

“We exist, and we were ignored, and that’s what hurts,” she said.

Kirkpatrick said much of that hurt stems from what neighbors feel is a lack of a documented apology for a flawed process.

Park Board Member Cydni Smith and Bailey offered apologies about how the proposal and decision unfolded during a Dec. 7 meeting with Eastside Pioneers residents and again Tuesday. They also have have been invited to attend a meeting of the neighborhood association at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Francis Church Parish Center, 1114 Third St. SE.

Kirkpatrick said she’d like to see it go further.

“We have concerns that this is going to happen to other neighborhoods in the city of Rochester, and we don’t want that,” she said.

The Park Board took steps Tuesday aimed at ensuring the situation is not repeated. They reviewed proposed changes to the park and facilities naming policy, which would add a requirement to reach out to groups and individuals who may have special interest in a naming request.

Additionally, the proposed changes seek to better outline goals and guidelines for future name changes.

While the proposed revisions were not approved Tuesday, board members asked Park and Recreation Director Paul Widman to make some final revisions and return with a revised policy for approval during the board’s Feb. 5 meeting.

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