Park Board commissioners said Wednesday they agree with community members who are in favor of changing the name of Jefferson Davis Parkand directed city staff to start the process of doing so.
It was the first time the board has considered the issue after the parks department received a community petition in August asking that the name be changed. The park was named after the president of the Confederacy in 1923.
The board asked staff to expedite the process and will consider a new name at its Oct. 25 meeting. The City Council will make the final decision, and that could happen in December.
“This is definitely an issue that’s going to evoke a lot emotion and it already has for a lot of reasons across the country,” Parks Director Richard Zavala told board members.
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The 8.6-acre park is at 4001 Townsend Drive, off Seminary Drive in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.
Park Commissioner Daniel Villegas offered up the name Unity Park, which was suggested in the online petition.
“I cannot accept not doing anything,” Villegas said. “... Events in other parts of the country have shown that there’s a change in attitude towards these kinds of recognitions. This obviously is a very sensitive topic and a very emotional decision we have to make.”
Commissioner Lance Griggs said that he liked the name Unity Park but that the community should have further input.
“I have no problem renaming this park,” he said.
City staff met with members of the group suggesting the name change and asked them to submit recommendations before Wednesday’s meeting.
Suggestions for namesakes included Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa, killed in July 2016 in the line of duty and who once lived near Jefferson Park; Richard “Dick” Salinas, a founder of the Dies y Seis Parade; and Juanita and Jimmie Pete Zepeda, one of the founders of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the first Hispanic elected to the Tarrant County College board. Juanita Zepeda served on the park board from 1973 to 1979.
Zavala said, however, that those names do not qualify under the park naming policy that has been place for decades. Most of the city’s parks, he told the board, are named for geographic locations. An individual’s name is typically only used to honor those who have contributed to the park system. There are few parks with themed names or named for historical Fort Worth figures, he said.
Valerie Zamarripa, Patrick Zamarripa’s mother, said after the meeting that she would be honored to have her son’s name on the park.
“I would love for it to be named after my son because I want his legacy to continue because of his daughter, so that way she knows who and what he was all about,” she said. “He was about the community. If it happens, great. It’s up to the community right now.”
Emily Farris, the Texas Christian University political science professor who started the online petition, said she’s never had strong feelings about what the name of the park should be, just that it shouldn’t be Jefferson Davis.
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She said that naming the park after Zamarripa would be a good choice but that it’s up to the community and the park board to decide.
“I plan on staying involved as long I think it’s important to be changed,” she said. “I want to see it through.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not an issue,” said Hood County Judge Darrell Cockerham, summing up the sentiment of most in the region. “It’s history. It represents the past, and it’s important to a lot of people.” (Video by Max Faulkner/Star-Tele