Parks Director Rich Buss said the city doesn't have a policy for naming parks. In the last 15 years, the city has gone about it in different ways. When the late Stanley Whitaker left the city about $750,000 for park improvements, for instance, the council named a 2.3-acre park on Scufflegrit Road after him. A smaller "pocket park" between Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Bank of America, developed by the Marietta Treekeepers, was named Hill Park at the suggestion of Councilman Anthony Coleman, as it was in his ward, Buss said.
The proposed naming policy would not allow parks and recreation facilities to be named after a living person, but could be named after an historic event, geographic reference or in remembrance of an outstanding citizen, among other criteria.
The subject was raised last week by Mayor Steve Tumlin, who would like to name a park after the late Mayor Joe Mack Wilson. Tumlin's site in question is a 5,864 square-foot parcel at the corner of Roswell and Anderson streets by Marietta Square. That parcel will include a bronze memorial statue given to the city by the Kiwanis Club of Marietta and unveiled in time for the city's annual Fourth of July Parade this summer. The city is spending $600,000 to redevelop the parcel into parkland as part of its Roswell Streetscape project using federal and SPLOST dollars, Public Works Director Dan Conn said.
Councilman Jim King said he prefers to name parks after geographic locations or roads, rather than people, because it takes the politics out of it. He's heard from citizens who complain about a particular park simply because they don't like the person it's named after.
"I have trouble naming stuff after people," King said.
In the case of naming a park after a former mayor, who's to say someone won't take offense because the park in question isn't large enough and therefore doesn't properly honor the mayor, King said.
Naming the new Franklin Road property the council recently bought simply Franklin Road Park is not going to elicit an argument the way naming it after a person may, King said.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair said he is hesitant in changing the names of existing parks since that would set off an "explosion of people who want to name a park after their uncle."
"I don't want to be the person that tells people 'no,'" Sinclair said..
Tumlin said he likes naming parks after people. He pointed out how dull it is to name a school "Public School Number 13."
"I can't imagine Elizabeth Porter not being Elizabeth Porter," Tumlin said.
Sinclair said the last thing he wants to see happen is someone suggesting a park be named in honor of someone and then there not be the votes on council to approve that name.
"We would never want to embarrass somebody," Sinclair said.
This is precisely what happened in 2007, when Mayor Bill Dunaway proposed renaming Hickory Hills Park after Tumlin's late parents, Virginia and Steve Tumlin Sr., but was blocked by council members Philip Goldstein and Annette Lewis. Dunaway never could garner the four votes needed to rename Hickory Hills.
Goldstein said he didn't want a proposal to name a park appearing on the council's agenda every time a resident suggested it. For it to get on the agenda, Goldstein said it should have the sponsorship of at least one council member.
The council is scheduled to vote on the policy and the naming of the park after Joe Mack Wilson at its April 14 meeting.