My View: Renaming Central Park Not a Great Idea

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City leaders gather upon hearing the news that Officer Corona had died

Early this year following the fatal tragic death of Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona, the council directed the police department to establish a memorial committee to find suitable ways to honor the fallen young officer.

The committee has come up with a number of ideas, some of them good ones, some worthy of consideration, and others not so good.

Drawing our attention is the first recommendation on the staff report asking council to “[d]irect staff to work with the Recreation and Park Commission on community outreach regarding the renaming of Central Park to ‘Natalie Corona Park’ or some variant thereof.”

Given what we know about the community, we believe that is an exceedingly bad idea.  Central Park in Davis has become an iconic community symbol.  It was but a few months ago when the iconic former Mayor Maynard Skinner spoke before the council as he recounted efforts to save the park from development a few decades ago.

Even people on the other side of the issue in the 1980s were grateful to have lost because the city would have lost an important space and community symbol that has come to define the community.

Granted, this move would merely rename the park – but given the attachment that this community has to Central Park, it seems like the idea of renaming it is not the best.

A few years ago, the city put up a statue of Gandhi in the park – that turned out to be a controversial move in Davis as it turned out to divide religious and ethnic communities from India.

In a way, this could be more divisive.

The best analogy here might be the recent effort to rename North Davis Elementary after Mary Ellen Dolcini.  Ms. Dolcini had been an important figure in the district and the school’s history.  But no one really reached out to the school community before putting the proposal before the school board.

The result was a petition drive, many comments by current students and parents at the school, and the district and board ultimately created a committee to look into the issue and found other ways to attempt to honor a worthy person.

And that is what needs to happen here.  Granted, the recommendation was to have staff work with the Rec and Park Commission on outreach – but we foresee this as a nonstarter.  This has the potential to take the act of honoring Ms. Corona from a community uniting process to one that becomes divisive, and, given the goals here, it seems like a better idea to pull this from the start rather than to engage in a community process.

From the start of this process, I was a bit concerned that there was the potential to allow understandable community grief in the face of a tragedy of this sort to run away with us.  It might be better to allow the benefit of time to help us heal the raw wounds of this community and also put this tragedy into some sort of more historical perspective.

There are a number of good and fairly reasonable proposals submitted to the council: anything from renaming the police department’s EOC room to a tree planting with a plaque at the site on 5th Street, and possibly even a statue of the young officer.

I would be opposed to renaming Central Park to “Corona Park” – if we were inclined to rename that park, we might start with the folks who helped to save it in the first place.  Likewise, renaming 5th Street seems like a bad idea in general, but if we were to entertain such an idea, it seems that a more suitable name would be someone who was instrumental in the founding or development of Davis.

It would be one thing to rename a more minor street or name a new street after Natalie Corona, but changing the name of a major street in Davis seems like a bad idea in a number of ways.

Again there seems to be such a lot of good ideas on the list of 15 that we should eliminate those likely to polarize the community – and probably, along with renaming 5th Street, renaming the park is the most polarizing suggestion.

Also, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s office sent out a press release on Friday, designating an approximately five-mile stretch of Interstate 5 from Greenbay Road to Salt Creek Drive in Colusa County as the “Officer Natalie Corona Memorial Highway” – which also seems reasonable.  Highways do not in general have names and are often renamed for fallen officers, and that stretch goes through her hometown of Arbuckle.

While the council and city can claim that they are only considering the option, the act of consideration is likely to lead to some heated rhetoric and strong emotions on both sides.  Better to simply steer clear.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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53 thoughts on “My View: Renaming Central Park Not a Great Idea”

  1. Todd Edelman

    We’re still a relatively small town with a central area frequented by many… and perhaps we could do something more innovative that would be inclusive of Officer Corona, and many others: A statue/sculpture/memorial etc. for EVERYONE murdered in Davis, or who dies of neglect (the latter would have parameters, for example, if people died of cancer due to living near I-80… or homeless folks who freeze at night or die due to illness likely caused by their living situation.)

    Every new memorial would be an excellent starting point for education about the person, and how and especially why their life ended.

    This is in no way meant to create a equivalency in what these people did in life, only their potential, which is the same for all (in the holistic or Universal sense, not dismissing class and ethnicity, education of parents and how that can affect success in life.)

    If we do this exceptionally right, we can even include murderers, though certainly it would create a lot of pollution and would be financially-impossible for this to be inclusive of I-80’s effects.

    1. Alan Miller

      TE, I never know if you are serious, or doing some long-running Andy Kaufman-esque comedy routine (vs. the people of Davis), on removing I-80 or putting roof on it.

    2. Alan Miller

      Whether passing resolution or naming something in honor of — as soon as it spreads from the original honoree to ‘everyone’, the honor is diluted down to meaninglessness and ultimately politicized.

    3. Todd Edelman

      Honoring “everyone” who was murdered is entirely the opposite of “meaningless” — the important details are how far back it should go and what’s an appropriate and sustainable form.

      I wish I could get thousands to Central Park to support some kind of effective mitigation of I-80’s negatives. Naming a structure that would protect generations of Davis people from harm would be very complicated, of course.

      All kinds of people get murdered, and it’s all bad. The police are against murder, so they should support this as well. I was with the Mayor during the shooting, and under lock-down we (the BTSSC) voted to protect people riding bikes from leaf piles. Many of us are trying to repair the world, but we need to do it more holistically.

    4. Alan Miller

      The police are against murder,

      There are those who would disagree with this statement.

      under lock-down we (the BTSSC) voted to protect people riding bikes from leaf piles.

      Another option is for people riding at night to use a light with a beam.  I’ve plowed into leaf piles at night, and it’s my own damn fault (along with the a-hole who put the leaf pile in the bike lane).

      1. Ron Oertel

        ” . . . under lock-down we (the BTSSC) voted to protect people riding bikes from leaf piles.”

        “I’ve plowed into leaf piles at night, and it’s my own damn fault . . .”

        I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this concern.  I’ve seen those things come out and grab unsuspecting bicyclists.  Sort of like “The Blob”.

  2. Alan Miller

    Wow, DG, I’ve never seen you dance around the elephant in the room quite like this before.   I agree with you, but let’s state the reasons:  there is a strong anti-police faction in the community that has made itself quite present and even disruptive at council meetings.  Not to mention the EEC on campus that caused a national rumbling by coming out against the widely-spread Corona/Blue Line Flag photo the day after she was killed, and catalyzed further by BLM Sacramento, which called for stealing the blue-line flags flying in honor of N.C., to be used in an “art piece”.   Yeah, what could go wrong in the process of naming Central Park after Natalie Corona?

    I’m generally against RE-naming anything.  However, the naming of that section of freeway near Arbuckle seems quite appropriate.  And something a bit more subtle in Davis.  Y’know what might be good is the downtown Fire Station.  I believe it is adjacent to where she was killed, and having her name displayed prominently on that building could be a good honor.  There’s probably some weird feud between the police and fire departments that would preclude that . . . ?

    1. David Greenwald

      I would just say, and maybe should have stated it, I am not against this because she was a cop, I’d pretty much be against it regardless.

      1. Alan Miller

        I agree — me too — but what I stated would almost certainly occur.  Isn’t that what you were implying regarding the ‘community process’?

        1. David Greenwald

          I think it’s broader than that but that’s an element of it.  There are those who will oppose the move on historical grounds and those who will oppose it because she’s a cop. My comparison point is really the North Davis debate which I see replaying here.

    2. Alan Miller

      Didn’t really mean feud, but like honor code or internal differences that could make it weird to name a fire building after a police officer?  Maybe not, just speculating.

  3. Alan Pryor

    I think naming the freeway section after Ms. Corona as mentioned in the article is appropriate but I am also against the naming of Central Park or 5th St for Officer Corona.

    The name of Central Park identifies it’s real significance in the community and it would be very disruptive to change it in terms of public outreach and recognition and cost.  And I absolutely guarantee that renaming 5th St and forcing the name change on all of the building and apartment owners along the street would elicit a very strong backlash which again is something we do not need when considering how to honor Ms. Corona.

    There are other less controversial but perhaps equally visible alternatives that would seem to make sense. For instance, I would think a prominant plaque memorial in front of the fire department where she was killed would be befitting. That said, I would strongly suggest against a statue of Ms. Corona in front of the police station  mostly because statues have become such controversial symbols given the problems with the Ghandi statue and confederate staues in the South and the fallen fate of so many historical statues in countries undergoing revolutionary change – think staues of Stalin in former East bloc countries and Saddam Hussein statues. Like it or not, statues have become symbols of repression and racism and I do not think that is the controversial legacy we want to associate with Ms. Corona’s name and sacrifice. I also think most statues do a very poor job in representing the ideals and aspirations of the person they are supposedly honoring and the attempts at making a statue that really look like the person often are horrible short.

    I like the idea of renaming the entire police department building after her and not just a conference room. It could have large letters high on both the 5th St. and Cantrill Dr. sides of the building that are also lit at night so it would be prominant day or night. Plus, both a fire department memorial on 5th St and the signage on the police building would be somewhat free of vandalism potential which, given the backlash from some in the community, unfortunately might be a consequence of other types of memorial – either at the park or with dozens of the street signs required for a renamed 5th St.

    I hope the Council does not overreach on this and turn what could be a sensitive effort at memorializing Ms. Corona’s name and tragically shortened life into a public battle by pursuing a Central Park name change or renaming 5th St. Neither would further the cause of community healing and could potentially reignite inflammed passions which would be very sorrowful to her name and her family.

     

     

  4. Bill Marshall

    I still think that a memorial scholarship, for HS kids needing help to attend JC or 4 year colleges (from Davis, and/or Arbuckle, or Yolo and/or Colusa Co’s), to pursue a career in public safety, be it PD or Fire, well publicized in public, including CC meetings, might well have been what Ms Corona would have prefered, her family could support, and you don’t worry about vandalism, cleaning from bird excrement, etc.

    Something truly enduring for the life of the community(ies), and those who seek to follow in her footsteps…

    Just saying…

    Street names are problematic… we already have a Corona St in Davis…  if extended to the north, we could have a N Corona street, but that’s a extremely slim to none proposition.

    I agree with Alan and David for their takes on a “re-name” thing.

    The only “community” that I believe should be consulted, as to proper recognition for Natalie Corona, in order:  her family; her Davis PD ‘family’; public safety employees in Davis and Arbuckle area; Davis and Arbuckle school districts. 

    And it should be about her life and example.  Nothing else.

    Just my opinion.

  5. Sean Raycraft

    My views on this issue closely align to Alan Pryor’s. I’m okay with renaming 5th Street. I thinks that’s appropriate. Renaming the police building? Sure, makes sense to me. A statue and a scholarship? Of course. That said, renaming Central Park seems like a bad idea.

    I think to rename Central Park to Natalie Corona Park, would cause a great deal of heartache for the community. I can already see people showing up to the council meeting on Tuesday and screaming at the city council about this issue. The community is still recovering from losing officer Corona, and I think nerves are still raw, across the spectrum.

    More importantly, I am concerned that turning Central Park into Natalie Corona Park would potentially turn the whole area into a shrine for the Blue Lives Matter movement. Many (but not all) members of the hardcore Blue Lives Matter movement are racists, pure and simple.

    The presence of those folks in Central Park will certainly make many in the community uncomfortable, especially communities of color. Central  park is supposed to be a place where everyone can feel comfortable and part of the community, so I have concerns. Just my 2c.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Renaming Fifth Street (that’s it’s legal name by the way, not “5th”), is problematic for many reasons, including all the data, both within the City (City Zoning, Financial, PW, PS, other mapping, etc. databases)… and elsewhere (think “Google Maps” as a minor example).

      And to what extent?  Fifth begins @ B, and goes 2+ miles to Alhambra?  A proposal without a clue of practical ramifications… much cost, much inconvenience… businesses with Fifth (or 5th) Street addresses… changing letterhead, websites, business cards, etc., etc.   … is that what Natalie or her family would want?

      $$$ for a statue is a deduct from what would be available for scholarship(s)… is that what you and Alan really support?  What would Natalie and her family want?   It’s not about you, Alan P, David, etc.  Nor, is it about me.  I raise questions.

      I agree, re-naming is problematic. Central Park as problematic on many levels…

      The whole re-naming thing has high costs, little tangible benefit… but I’ll defer to the family…

       

      1. Alan Miller

        Unless I’m reading incorrectly, AP is against a statue.

        Statues, besides all the reasons sited as being problematic, are often creepy if not done to absolute perfection.

      2. David Greenwald

        “What would Natalie and her family want?   It’s not about you, Alan P, David, etc.  Nor, is it about me. ”

        Disagree Bill.  The family certainly is an important consideration.  But the community has to decide whether a given course is appropriate.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Then, we’ll agree to disagree…

          Did you personally know Natalie, or just her symbolic image?

          Outside of City staff, suspect few in Davis knew Natalie or her family personally.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s exactly my point – this is a community decision, not a Natalie family decision.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Ultimately, I suspect that neither Central Park or Fifth Street will be “renamed” (nor should they be). However, that is in no way an indicator of lack of respect.

    I’m glad that there’s a “Golden Gate Park”, instead of a “John McLaren Park”.  (Actually, I think a different, more obscure park was named for him, later.)

    McLaren was no fan of statues in the park, either.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McLaren_(horticulturist)

  7. Ron Glick

    I think renaming Central Park after Natalie Corona is a fine idea. She was an extraordinary person who gave her short life to this community and worthy of having something grand named in her honor. If a compromise is needed to retain the location name perhaps we should consider making it something like “Natalie Corona Memorial Central Park.”

    I have one question for the naysayers and I don’t mean this as a put down, did you ever meet Natalie? I will be surprised if anyone who actually knew her thinks this is a bad idea.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ron G… remember that it is not only Davis, but Arbuckle too, where she shared her life and light…

      Am not disagreeing, but expanding…

  8. Don Shor

    My personal opinion is that creating and naming a dedicated grove or garden or site is more meaningful and effective than simply renaming something. It says, in effect: we created this space in memory of this person. Designed and planted in such a way that it creates a separate space, a place to sit and reflect. Landscape designers know how to do this.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      You’ll get no argument from this quarter, Don… key to me is something that “lives on”, and your suggestion does that.

      Good concept…

      But would also still recommend the scholarship thing, too… I vote for both…

      The other thing I like about the concept you bring up… “we” can contribute to the acquisition of plants… “we” can turn out to do the ground prep, and the planting… it can truly be a ‘community’ thing… crossing threads… incorporating into the plans for the parcel @ the SW corner of F/Anderson?

      City contributing a portion of the land it already owns, folk, private and commercial, ‘donating’ for design, materials, community providing the sweat equity to make real?

      Most time proximate place for land I can think of, off-hand…

      If it comes to pass, I’m on board for a contribution of ‘treasure’, and ‘time’… I leave out ‘talent’, as I have zero clue as to design…

      1. Bill Marshall

        My bad… said it was a good concept… upon reflection, I amend that to read “DAMN good concept!”… my gut tells me, Natalie, her family (personal and professional) would affirm the concept in a New York minute… might be wrong, but am thinking, not wrong…

        Making a pledge now… $1,000 for materials, 20 hours of sweat equity (spread over several days)… spouse would probably donate another 20 hours (similarly spread)… for Don’s concept…

    2. Ron Oertel

      I like Don’s idea as well, but the key question for me is “where”, and what impact that might have on other uses/plans. And, if it’s in an out-of-the-way place instead, will folks be reflecting on it, 10 years from now?

      Also wondering if the police department itself has any ideas/input (or facilities/space which might be appropriate to house a memorial of some type). Seems to me that they might take the lead, on this.

      1. Ron Oertel

        And, if Don’s idea is implemented, would it be “maintained” 10 years from now, as well? Especially if it’s in an out-of-the-way place?

        Again, I’d think that the police department itself is key, here.

        As a side note, I believe there’s a statewide memorial, in Sacramento. Unfortunately, with a continuing list of names.

        1. Don Shor

          would it be “maintained” 10 years from now, as well? Especially if it’s in an out-of-the-way place?

          It would be designed into an existing park and would simply become part of the ongoing maintenance of that site. Landscapes change, but with proper tree selection it can still be a fitting memorial decades from now.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Thanks – I see your idea, below.  I like it (as well as your generous offer), but was wondering if it might impact any other current uses.

          Overall, it’s the best idea I’ve seen, if a memorial is planned off-site from the police department itself.

          1. Don Shor

            would it impact any other current uses?

            That would be one of the first considerations of a landscape designer or landscape architect. Obviously the answer to your question would be site-specific, but integrating any memorial into the existing use patterns and landscaping would be important, and that is what those professionals do. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of sites in Central Park that would be suitable. Or perhaps she was a sports fan, and this whole thing might be more suitable at the edge of one of the parks where games are played. That’s where input from her family could be helpful.

  9. Don Shor

    I am not a landscape designer, but if I was working with one on a project to commemorate Natalie Corona I would suggest a memorial grove and pavilion in a public area that is readily accessible.

    If it were to be in Central Park, I suggest it be an area graded somewhat above the surrounding park, perhaps about a foot or so. The existing lawn would lead up gently to a paved area, with a curved bench facing out to the rest of the park. The bench should be low enough that children can easily get up on it and scramble around and play, and wide enough for a whole family to sit or spread out comfortably.

    At one end of the bench, rather than have a statue I would suggest a more elegant memorial such as a bronze plaque, perhaps set in granite or textured concrete, with a profile of Officer Corona and her history.

    The grove could consist of groupings of flowering trees such as redbuds, and small groups of trees with fall color such as fruitless ginkgoes. I suggest at least one of our native Valley oaks to be the eventual replacement for the venerable specimen that dropped a large branch a couple of summers ago. And that oak should be planted not far from the bronze memorial.

    Planting beds for flowering perennials could be included, especially if this grove is sited anywhere near the existing Central Park Gardens, to provide colorful transition to that outstanding group of gardens that is already being maintained with significant amount of volunteer labor.

    If the grove and pavilion were to be located on the edge of the new wildlife area proposed in north Davis, then it would face the habitat area as a viewing station. If it were to be located in Central Park, it would likely become a pavilion for musicians and storytelling and educational events.

    The memorial should be intended to be visited and used by the public, especially children. The story should be simple and clear, a celebration of what Officer Corona represents. The Warm Remembrance Play Area, dedicated at Redwood Park in 2015, is the model I have in mind. And as with that project, and regardless of what form it finally takes, I’m prepared to donate as many trees as needed to bring it to fruition.

  10. Bill Marshall

    Je d’accord… I agree… I did not know Riggins/Gonsalves personally… but I was close to many who did. You have the correct model, in my opinion… that would be respectful, and positive…

    Still think the scholarship thing should be a piece… but as to physical, you have nailed the landing that I’d seek… you captured my sentiments… thanks… will think it will be a support to her family (including ‘extended’), and the “community”… and, I’ll make a similar pledge to Arbuckle… consider it a ‘tale of two communities’… Davisville, when it became Davis, was not much larger than Arbuckle today… 102 years ago… have a relative that would be 100 this year, and several friends who are 95+… different counties, somewhat similar communities… historically…

  11. Ron Oertel

    I hadn’t seen this, so thought I’d post a link to the Enterprise article:

    https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/council-to-hear-proposals-for-honoring-corona/

    I sure like Don’s idea, better than any of these.  That is, a dedicated grove/space (probably within Central Park), as long as it can be incorporated in a way that makes sense.

    There’s something appropriately somber and reflective, regarding a grove. And, it essentially lives on, indefinitely.

    Go, Don!

    1. Ron Oertel

      Wow – just noticed that Rich Rifkin made some interesting/provocative comments, in the comments section below the Enterprise article (see link above).

      1. Alan Miller

        Wow is right.  He seems pretty hopped up on that issue.  Wonder if there is a reason.  I certainly agree that memorial funds, public and private, are often really questionable after a certain point.  But really, it’s up to the giver to decide if any charity or fund is valid.  And it’s not so much that I understand where RR is coming from.

        I guess we’ll never know, as he doesn’t post here anymore (along with almost everyone else who used to post here).  Actually, why in h*ll am I still posting here?

        1. Ron Oertel

          I’ve seen some of Rich’s posts from long ago, and I personally think the Vanguard is “less diverse” without him.  Although I’d probably disagree with him about 80% of the time, he is a good writer.

  12. Edgar Wai

    Does anyone live near the center of Davis who can make a poll at Nextdoor covering the whole Davis, to poll people’s inclination on renaming central park for Natalie?

    If we do it now, maybe we can skip “directing staff” to check.

  13. Edgar Wai

    My opinion is that renaming central park for her is not appropriate. The central park is more about farmer’s market than her.

    I would rather there to be an ordinance or an anti-ordinance named after her (anti-ordinance = a law that asserts certain activity to be legal).

    Can the City of Davis maintain a webpage listing local heroes (passed or alive) with bio, and let people “like” the ones they like? The page can promote not just one hero but all of them. So if Natalie ranks first on the list, that is her proportional honor. And we can see who will become first next. We should put the Purple Lady there too. And many others. David Greenwald can be there too. So is anyone else nominated and willing to be “ranked” on the hero list.

    1. John Hobbs

      “(anti-ordinance = a law that asserts certain activity to be legal).”

      Find a civics teacher and have the basis of constitutional law explained. Since you are so “pro-jail how about a “Natalie Corona” cell at the Yolo county jail?

      In all seriousness, Don’s idea is the best I’ve heard.

      Just know that whatever is built or renamed, in twenty years maybe a handful of people outside her family will have any idea who Natalie Corona was.

      Ask Sacramentans who Ritz Naygrow or Doc Oliver are.

      1. Alan Miller

        Just know that whatever is built or renamed, in twenty years maybe a handful of people outside her family will have any idea who Natalie Corona was.

        I’d agree with most people, but honestly I don’t think that’s the case with Miz Corona.  Sure we’ll all be forgotten at some point.  But she’s not the sort of light that is going to burn out anytime soon.

        “Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky” — Kansas

        Note:  Kansas was wrong.

        1. Craig Ross

          “Sure we’ll all be forgotten at some point.  But she’s not the sort of light that is going to burn out anytime soon.”

          It’s sad but you’re being a bit melodramatic.

      2. Edgar Wai

        I was considering something similar to Miranda’s Rights. Or Good Samaritan Law. Something kind of good protocol that help builds trust or community named after Natalie Corona.  So when someone follows old habit to do something that spreads mistrust or breaks the community, we could recite the “Natalie Corona Law” to remind them to behave, smile, and de-escalate.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Inappropriate.  Also, incorrect.

          Thinking Natalie would agree… just my gut…

          A heinous crime… young professional woman with great potential, leaving our presence… please don’t trivialize…  and, my apologies if you actually knew her… I did not know her personally…

  14. Alan Miller

    Well, apparently I still can’t see Edgar Wei.  When will the Vanguard drop the dopey & irreverseable “ghosting” feature.  And no, I’m not logging out.

      1. Bill Marshall

        I did recently… told David, no rush… but still it’s a ‘hiccup’ that may (or may ot) get fixed in the “new and improved” rollout that David has suggested will come by year’s end… a ‘wait and see’, I guess…

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