Hyattsville City Council will soon launch an official effort to solicit a new name for Magruder Park, but the details still need to be hammered out.
The park’s current namesake, prominent early 20th-century Hyattsville politician William Pinkney Magruder, has come under scrutiny partially because he donated much of the land for the park with segregationist deed clauses that prohibited people of color from the park.
Earlier this year, the city removed signs bearing Magruder’s name from the park entrances after the signs were vandalized.
City Manager Tracey Douglas outlined a proposed outreach effort to rename the park during Hyattsville City Council’s Aug. 10, 2020, meeting. Hyattsville City Council was generally supportive, but only discussed the proposal, and took no action. The measure is expected to return for discussion and possible action at the next City Council meeting.
According to the proposal, city officials would first announce a “name selection challenge” in local news outlets, social media and the Hyattsville Green Sheet – a newsletter sent by mail to city residents. City officials plan to solicit input through Hyattsville’s website, a physical suggestion box at the park, or by email to ParkName@Hyattsville.org.
City communications staff will collate the responses and provide reports to the Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee and the Hyattsville Race and Equity Task Force. Those committees would select five recommendations, a selection of which could be circulated to residents using the Green Sheet. City officials proposed using pre-paid postage postcards in the Green Sheet for residents to mail back indicating their preferences among the selected options.
But city staff only provided broad outlines of a program. Nuts-and-bolts details, such as name pre-requistes, or when City Council would weigh in on the culling process, or if the matter deserves a public hearing, are still to be determined.
“I think the council is generally supportive of the recommendation and how to move forward,” said Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. “Our homework will be to develop some of those requirements – the things folks would like to have going forward.”
Some of those requirements for a new name under consideration are simple: Should the park’s new name include the word “Hyattsville” or not?
“I think it’s very clear that we would not consider anything that’s exclusionary,” said Douglas.
City Councilors Erica Wolf, Ben Simasek and Danny Schaible all voiced support for a public hearing at some point in the feedback process. Councilor Robert Croslin said a public hearing wasn’t necessary.
“I don’t see the need for that,” said Croslin. “If Council members announced this at their ward check-ins, I think that’s enough for public meetings. If it’s put out in all the websites and the Green Pages and the Life & Times, it should get to everyone.”
The move to rename Magruder Park is the second-half of a two-pronged approach to address the segregationist legacy underlying the park. The current effort to rename the park dates to early 2019 in discussions on the Hyattsville neighborhood email listserv. The effort, so far, has been unanimously supported by Hyattsville City Council. Earlier this year, Hyattsville City Council approved a measure directing city staff to pursue a “quitclaim deed” revision that would remove the segregationist clauses that, when the land was donated in the 1920s, restricted the use of the park to city’s caucasian residents.
Several alternative namesakes are floating in the discourse, including such possible namesakes as Jim Henson (who grew up in University Park, it should be noted), Morgan Wooten (who also lived in University Park, though he led DeMatha hoops to greatness in Hyattsville) and David Driskell, a Hyattsville resident and a prominent African American artist who died this year from Coronavirus.
There are also several suggestions to in some way name the park after the Piscataway or Nactotchtank indigenous people who lived in the area before European colonization.
Additionally, at least one person has floated the idea of naming the park after warm-feeling concepts such as hope or love.
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