Coon Rapids is in the thick of a $17 million park and trails renovation, and some folks want to donate a little piece to that legacy — with their family name on it, of course.
That’s prompted the city to consider enacting a formal naming and donation policy to avoid any naming mishaps or awkwardness. Among other things, the draft policy calls for a background investigation into any proposed name.
It lays out other guidelines, including what it takes to have a park, trail or amenity named after a person or family, and it makes it possible to rename a park if, for example, that name falls out of favor.
“With the parks bond referendum, there have been individuals that have come forward with interest in the naming of a splash pad or even a park,” said Coon Rapids Recreation Coordinator Ryan Gunderson. “We thought it would be good to have a policy in place to guide staff and the City Council.”
If there’s interest in naming a park or amenity after a local resident, the proposed rules require the person to have given at least a decade of local community service, be a prominent historical figure or family member, show “outstanding assistance” to local parks, be locally born or raised with importance outside the region, or be a major financial donor.
The draft policy also explicitly states that if a name falls out of favor, it can be changed: “The City Council reserves all rights in the naming or renaming of all parks, park facilities and trails.”
The Coon Rapids City Council, which has the ultimate say on names, discussed the draft policy at a recent workshop and could be voting on it in early January.
Phones are ringing
The issue of park and amenity naming — and renaming — has hit a nerve in some communities across the metro this year.
Some have lobbied to rename Minneapolis’ Lake Calhoun, which was named for a 19th century proslavery vice president and senator.
Brooklyn Park has asked the Three Rivers Park District to rename Coon Rapids Regional Dam Park to something more appealing. The 160-acre park on the banks of the Mississippi River is technically located in Brooklyn Park.
The Coon Rapids city name itself has been called into question in recent years as too provincial by at least one council member. But a stab at renaming the city was quickly defeated.
Coon Rapids’ park-naming process is a bit undefined, Gunderson said. Residents donate about a dozen benches and trees each year and staffers arrange to have a small plaque installed nearby, usually as a memorial to a deceased family member.
“Do we have a benchmark? Do we want to name a park after someone who is giving 10 percent of a project?” Gunderson said.
And is the city best served with a park name that reflects a neighborhood or natural amenity vs. a largely unfamiliar and sometimes hard-to-spell family name?
Now that the suburb of 62,000 is renovating many of its 48 parks and establishing a new park in front of the city’s ice arena, the phones have started ringing and well-intentioned residents are inquiring about donations and naming possibilities.