The Harnett County Board of Commissioners told Parks and Recreation Department Director Carl Davis that parks will not be named after individuals for the foreseeable future.
The panel says the move will prevent showing favoritism and avoid a backlash or backlog of administrative red tape such as developing guidelines for naming and will also prevent squabbles over names between two sides wanting to see their friend or relative honored.
The issue arose when Davis wanted to name one of the county’s parks — Government Complex Park — after his predecessor and 30 plus-year Harnett County employee Alice Powell. Davis wanted to rename the park after Powell, which would have broken from the usual naming of parks based on the area they serve.
“I know our municipalities have Jack Marley Park in Angier and named parks in Dunn and I’m not against anything you’re saying,” Commissioner Howard Penny said. “If we do this in the county are we opening up something because none of our schools have names on them. I’m just asking the question, if the county starts naming things after individuals, are we going to have other issues?”
At no time did any of the commissioners say anything negative about Powell, instead they praised her for her efforts and dedication to Harnett County.
“I have the same reservations,” Commissioners Chairman Gordon Springle said. “I know Alice, she’s an enthusiastic lady and she did a lot of stuff. She probably spent more hours than most people would spend doing things for the county. But, I’m not sure if (naming) is setting a precedent.”
Springle suggested recognizing Powell in some other way inside the park itself, something his fellow commissioners agreed would be a possibility. Springle said with such a large population, he fears there would be issues created the county could avoid.
“From a county standpoint, you’ve got 135,000 people,” Springle said. “You could start creating an issue, that’s just the way I feel about it.”
Commissioner Barbara McKoy added if the park was renamed after Powell, it would force the county to set into motion a way to select people to name things after, something which could be very tricky.
“If we moved forward naming this park after Miss Powell, we would have to set some kind of bylaws or criteria as to how we name buildings and parks in this county,” she said. “Because we would be in a position where people would put just anybody’s name on it.”
She said naming a building or a park should be something reserved for special circumstances. McKoy reemphasized the need to follow a set protocol.
“If a name goes on a park, if a name goes on a building it should stand for something,” McKoy said. “So we should have some rules or guidelines before we start doing that.”
Commissioner Mark Johnson, who is the vice president of the Dunn Area History Museum and curator of the Gen. William C. Lee Airborne Museum, gave an example of how difficult the process could really be. He said the Dunn museum has refrained from naming exhibits after individuals for the same reasons.
“The problem is other people come in and say, ‘what about my family?’” Johnson said. “We decided it would be best not to do that.”
The first phase of the Government Complex Park is currently in development, according to county staff. The county received a $400,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant, which requires a matching $400,000 from the county, to complete the first phase of the park, which is located off McKinney Parkway, near the Sandhills Farm Park. It is adjacent to the Cape Fear River.