LOCAL GOVERNMENT

BELTON — The name Confederate Park is now officially on its way out.

The Belton City Council — in a 6-0 decision, with Mayor Marion Grayson absent — approved the renaming of the park near Nolan Creek and Interstate 35 as well as the nearby Confederate Park Drive.

“What it boils down to in my mind is the right thing is the right thing. The right decision is the right decision,” Councilman Guy O’Banion said. “I had to keep going back to what is the right decision, what is the right thing to do and, in 2020, is it the right thing to highlight a park named Confederate Park? I don’t feel like it is.”

The Council also tasked the parks board with naming a 10-member committee to come up with five names for Council members to consider as the park’s new name.

“The parks board meets again on Aug. 5,” city spokesman Paul Romer said. “Committee members should be selected by that time and deliberations on potential new names can begin at that time.”

The committee — which the City Council ordered must be diverse — must suggest inclusive names for the park and avoid naming it after a person. The park and street may have the same name or different names.

“I wanted it to flow through the proper channels and not be left to the City Council, and I think that’s the right process,” Councilman John Holmes said. “So tonight we vote on the process — not a name, nothing finalized — just more transparency.”

Three people — residents of Temple, Morgan’s Point Resort and Milam County — spoke about the name change.

Temple resident Gerald Fletcher spoke during the Council’s public comment period about the renaming of the park. He described the City Council’s July 14 workshop to discuss possibly renaming Confederate Park as not being transparent because all seven members agreed it needs a new designation.

“If this is about change and you’re wanting to change Confederate Park then you need to change Martin Luther King (Avenue),” Morgan’s Point Resort resident Jim Bounds said, suggesting he would rename the street after the namesake of the county and city, former Texas Gov. Peter Hansborough Bell. “Then you can change the name of Confederate Park to whatever you want. How about that?”

Councilman Craig Pearson spoke about his time in the military influencing his decision to start the process renaming Confederate Park.

“Whenever I’ve been in charge or in command as I did for many years in the military, I learned quickly that anything you tolerate it will, in fact, grow worse,” Pearson said. “If you see something that’s not quite right but you don’t say that you’re bothered or do something about it, you, in fact, endorsed that.”

Pearson said he wants to see the city to install signs at the park to tell visitors the park’s history. That, he said, would be one way to honor Belton’s history and show the city’s progress.

“It is 2020. We’re sitting here in a historical building,” Mayor pro tem Wayne Carpenter, referring to the Harris Community Center’s time as Belton’s former segregated school. “We moved past that. We can move past this name and we need to make sure our community is welcoming for all folks.”