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City Council Votes to Find New Master Plan for Emancipation, Justice Parks

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Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin
The covered statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park The covered statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park
The covered statue of "Stonewall" Jackson in Justice Park The covered statue of "Stonewall" Jackson in Justice Park
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville is scrapping a previous plan to redesign the two downtown parks that are home to controversial statues.

Monday night, City Council voted for a new proposal  that would change Justice and Emancipation parks while the legal battle to remove the statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson works its way slowly through the courts.

The city had started its search for new master plans for both parks back on June 29, not long after councilors voted unanimously to rename the parks, but later halted the process in September. The cancellation was due in part to the July-rally at Justice Park by members and supporters of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and the violent clashes between opposing sides during August's Unite the Right rally.

Councilor Kathy Galvin proposed to restart the design process, and to divide the master plan into two phases.

“We needed the process to give us time to heal from the event and the violence itself, but then we needed to have time to then transition to become constructive and deal with the question about what do we do with these parks now,” she said.

Galvin and Mayor Mike Signer had originally voted against a measure to remove the Lee statue, but later changed their positions following the August rally.

The first phase would figure out what to do with the parks while the statues of Lee and Jackson are still there. Galvin wants to involve historians, artists, designers, and the community to help tell a more complete history of race in Charlottesville.

“We need to get the full story out there right away. We need to make it very clear what those statues stood for then and what they've become now,” said the councilor.

“I think it is always good to take a moment to breathe and be reflective about where we are in terms of where we've been and how we want to move forward,” said Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center Director Andrea Douglas.

The first phase would also come up with a creative way to conceal the statues, instead of the black tarps that shroud them currently in mourning of the three people who died on August 12: Heather Heyer and Virginia State Police Lieutenant Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.

“Reveal what they did, what they were all about, but at the same time clearly project that they are no longer in a place of prominence,” Galvin explained.

The second phase of Galvin’s proposed process would develop a full redesign of the parks without the statues. It would include putting up new historical markers and monuments, including a memorial to Charlottesville's enslaved population.

“This can be a moment for us to finally come together and talk constructively and honestly, and then have as a result parks we can be proud of,” said Galvin.

The city budgeted $1 million for the whole project, but says the amount can change if need be. In between the two phases, Charlottesville plans to launch a fundraising campaign to add to the budget.

The search for a new design firm should begin within 60 days.