The City of Charlottesville announced the results of a public survey on the renaming of Emancipation Park and Justice Park Monday. City Council initiated the survey after receiving community feedback to rename the parks in February. Voters preferred Market Street Park for Emancipation Park and Court Square Park took the lead for Justice Park.
Emancipation and Justice Parks were originally titled Lee and Jackson Park, respectively, named for the Confederate general whose statue was housed in the area. After voting in February 2017 to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, Council decided to rename the park, soliciting recommendations from the community, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Historic Resources Committee.
The following June, Council opted to choose names — Emancipation and Justice — that weren’t on the shortlist provided by those groups. Former Councilor Kristin Szakos said the naming was an inadvertent error, according to NBC29.
City Council originally decided to hold a public hearing and discuss the second renaming of the parks after a petition was circulated by local activist Mary Carey which called for a renaming of Emancipation Park.
The survey was open from March 6 to March 28, and responses were collected online, over the phone, by email and by mail. A total of 7,535 responses were collected in the three week period with 7,470 responses completed online, 36 by voicemail messages and 29 by mailed ballots or letters.
The top five suggested new names for Emancipation Park — in order of voter preference — were Market Street Park, Vinegar Hill Park, Central Park, Library Park and Community Park. The top five new names for Justice Park, in order of votes, were Court Square Park, Courthouse Park, Justice Park, Memorial Park and The Commons.
At a February City Council session, Councilors clarified the names Lee, Jackson and Emancipation would not be under consideration. Despite this stipulation,1,825 write-in votes for Emancipation Park were submitted referencing “Lee” and 1,607 write-in votes referencing “Jackson” for Justice Park.
A number of write-in votes were also tallied and grouped into similar names. The top three write-in suggestions for Emancipation Park were Swanson Legacy Park, Donald J. Trump Park and Heather Heyer Park. The same names, in a different order, were top options for Justice Park — Donald J. Trump Park, followed by Swanson Legacy Park and Heather Heyer Park.
According to a press release issued by City Council, the survey results and the next steps for the renaming process will be discussed at the group’s next session April 16.