Charlottesville Again Conducting Survey for Naming 2 Downtown Parks

Posted: Updated:

Charlottesville is once again asking for public input on what to name two downtown parks.

The new survey opened Tuesday, March 6.

The new survey contains 17 name options for Emancipation Park and 23 for Justice Park, plus a write-in option. However, councilor Kathy Galvin says City Council will not consider any write-in names unless there is an overwhelming amount of votes.

"Communication breakdown was a serious problem last August. This is demonstrating to the public that we're getting our act together,” said the councilor, alluding to events of August 12.

When creating the survey, city staff says they were unable to restrict non-Charlottesville residents from taking the survey or people from using multiple devices to write-in.

"We can't really put a geographic restriction on the survey. Again, it's a way for us to get a sense of the community's feelings about this. At the end of the day, Charlottesville City Council is going to have to make a choice with the best information they have available," said City of Charlottesville Director of Communications Brian Wheeler.

"There's also going to be people that are from as far as field as Tennessee and Florida and upstate New York will probably be weighing in. And it's going to be important for us to screen all of that," said Galvin.

City Council unanimously picked new names for Lee and Jackson parks during a meeting in June 2017. Changing the names to Emancipation and Justice parks, respectively, appearing to disregard the recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission to keep the original names.

Similarly, a public poll found the top suggestions were keep Lee and Jackson in the names. The five most written-in choices during the previous survey included Monacan Park, Sally Hemings Park, Court Square Park, Unity Park, and Freedom Park. The city received more than 1,300 suggested names for each park in that online survey.

"That was our mistake last time. It was… we didn't fully respect that process," said Galvin.

She added, "The main thing is that we follow the process, we respect the process, and don't drop any surprises on the public or on colleagues with a name that's never been put on the list before."

The new survey will stay open to the public through March 28. Surveys can also be taken in the City Manager's Office and over the phone.

"Our goal is to give them [City Council] a little more information. Make sure there aren't any other new names that were not previously under consideration that the community wants to get behind. Again, it's not going to be perfect, but it's a way we can give a little bit more information," Wheeler said.

City staff will do the first screening of results, and pass on the top three names to councilors. Wheeler says the plan is to give Charlottesville City Council an update at either its first or second meeting in April.