LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Confederate Park’s new name will be a step closer to reality later this week.

The city of Belton’s parks board on Wednesday is expected to announce its appointments to a 10-person committee that will generate a list of names for the park.

“Committee members should be selected by that time and deliberations on potential new names can begin at that time,” spokesman Paul Romer said.

The committee is supposed to include residents who are diverse. They must suggest a list of five names that are inclusive. The City Council has directed the committee to avoid naming the park after a person.

“The reason I came to this is because people were saying that the city of Belton (is) racist because they have a park named Confederate Park — and I do not want a park to define me,” Councilman David K. Leigh said Tuesday. “I don’t want a name to define me just like other people don’t want things define them. I think that’s why we should consider it.”

The Belton Council voted 6-0, with Mayor Marion Grayson absent, to begin the process of renaming the park near Nolan Creek and Interstate 35. They also signed off on the renaming of nearby Confederate Park Drive.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Dan Kirkley reiterated that his faith factored into his decision. He brought up Galatians 3:28. He said the Bible verse says, “We are one in Christ, Jesus.”

“I think the love of Jesus Christ will cure this,” Kirkley said.

In mid-July, 19 people — 12 of who said they wanted the park’s name to remain and seven who wanted it changed — voiced their opinion on the park to the City Council. A public comments sign-in sheet shows that of the people who signed up to speak, eight lived outside of Belton city limits.

Council members said they have been bombarded with emails from people upset that they are considering a name change for Confederate Park.

“The only pressure I have received is the pressure to not change the name and some of it is not very nice,” Councilman Guy O’Banion said, adding he is used to taking heat caused by previous issues. “I guess that’s what we get our dollar a year for.”

Leigh noticed a pattern among those messages and the people who spoke during public comments.

“The ones who are really putting pressure on us and honestly … most of them (are from) outside the city of Belton — not residents of this city,” Leigh said Tuesday after three people — residents of Temple, Morgan’s Point Resort and Milam County — talked about the park to the Council. “There’s a reason why people, not residents of Belton, are coming here and I believe it’s politically motivated.”

Leigh said he had to vote his conscience.

“We will all come to our own personal convictions,” he said. “And if these personal convictions are not in line with those who vote for us, we may be voted out.”