A potential compromise was raised Monday night in what had become a controversial debate over the naming of city land along the Chippewa River in downtown Eau Claire.
Angela Deutschlander, vice president of the local Veterans Tribute Foundation, said her group only wants to name the portion of the property where the group’s $2.2 million project is slated to go — not a nearby location tended by area gardeners.
“We are only asking to name the space we are developing in the north and east ends of the property,” she said during Monday night’s Eau Claire City Council meeting.
In recent weeks the request initiated by the group to rename the entire 16.8-acre Forest Street Special Area as the Veterans Tribute Park had stirred opposition from the gardeners and North River Fronts Neighborhood Association who felt the proposed name was not inclusive of their presence on the land.
Last month the Eau Claire County Board postponed offering its support for the name change and the city’s Waterways & Parks Commission recommended against the name change in a 7-3 vote.
Deutschlander’s comments Monday night to only adopt the Veterans Tribute Park name for the portion of the land that has a trail, several monuments, a paved plaza, permanent restroom and other features funded by the foundation — but not the Forest Street Community Gardens and an existing shelter — offers an alternative the council can consider today during its 4 p.m. meeting today.
City attorney Stephen Nick said the council could amend the naming request so it only includes the areas Deutschlander mentioned.
“You could choose to rename a portion of it or none of it (Tuesday) at your legislative discretion,” Nick said.
Deutschlander said the veterans group had only intended to change the name for the areas they were developing. City community services director Jeff Pippenger said the request submitted in March by the foundation had sought to rename the entire swath of land.
“Sounds like there’s been some miscommunication,” Councilwoman Kate Beaton said.
The debate over naming the area drew a large crowd to the boardroom in the county Courthouse for Monday night’s council meeting.
Tami Schraufnagel, a county supervisor and North River Fronts Neighborhood Association leader, wanted veterans and other groups involved in the park to come together and discuss a name that would encompass them all.
“I am in favor of all of our organizations working together to come up with some idea to celebrate veterans, celebrate citizens and have that area in our community to be a destination for all,” she said.
Michael Hanke, a veteran from Chippewa Falls, spoke about how naming a park for veterans will help returning service members heal with their families after facing war.
“We need to consider what is this park going to do,” he said.
A local group called Veterans for Unity is not taking a stance on the proposed name, instead asking that veterans, gardeners and the neighborhood involved in the park all come together to discuss the naming issue.
Comprised of Eau Claire veterans, active duty service members and military civilians, the group sent a letter Monday to groups involved in the naming debate, local government officials and area media outlets.
“To this end we are not weighing in regarding the name for the park or if a new name is needed — we are asking for an opportunity to bring all sides together toward a resolution everyone can support,” Veterans for Unity stated. “We believe working together will bring about a stronger project and a stronger Eau Claire for years to come.”
The letter was signed by former Councilman Berlye Middleton, UW-Eau Claire Professor Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, Scott Morfitt, Brandon Withers, Brian Pauley, Louis Frase and Lorin Divine.