Renaming Fluvanna’s “Confederate Park”?

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The July 1st Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meeting was filled with discussions about history and historical perspective. And ended with the supervisors wanting the public to talk about it more.

The meeting started unusually with new business item ‘renaming of park’ being moved to beginning of the meeting. New business typically occurs at the end of the public session, just before the last public comment section.

The park in question is currently identified as ‘Confederate Park’ by a sign the public works installed last year. County records never show a formal name being selected for the small grassed area.

The only thing in the park is a confederate war memorial, honoring the Fluvanna soldiers who died. Around the monument are three stones, one for a Fluvanna battalion, one for a Fluvanna man and a third for all the Fluvanna women who died during the war.

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Mozell Booker

“We are not thinking of doing anything to the park,” said chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).

Booker suggested the park should be expanded to not only include just the confederate memorial but other memorials. Names were suggest of ‘Memorial Park’ or ‘Monument Park’,

Booker, who grew up in Fluvanna and graduated from segregated Abrams High School, emphasized the confederate monument should stay because it signifies an important part of history. “It is Fluvanna’s history. It is my history,” she said.

The county placed the sign in the park during a 2014 emphasis of identifying public areas. The reason it was given the name Confederate Park is because it has frequently been identified throughout history as such. But formally, no name has been given.

“The timing is just suspicious to me, but if it is for all the right reasons then I’m for it,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).

Booker said the timing was fine because it was a discussion about Fluvanna and “it is always a good time to talk about Fluvanna.”

She said many times that the monument should not come down. She suggested other monuments that could be placed in the park including something to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She said the park could be a safe place for families to talk about the Civil War.

“It is a good place for families to come and talk personal history,” said Booker. She said often the Civil War is a difficult item to talk about in schools but families could talk together about it.

Four people spoke during public comments to voice support of renaming the park and no one suggested taking the monument down.

“The space could be more than just a memorial to more than just the confederate soldiers,” said Marvin Moss, president of the Fluvanna Historical Society. He said the society has someone willing to donate a stone to honor the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Dr. Frank Gallo felt if the name was such an issue, he could handle it immediately after the meeting, without any fanfare. “I have a hacksaw in the back of my car. We can take it down tonight.”

Supervisors are asking residents to suggest names via the county’s website feature called, ‘My Two Cents’. Residents can also contact county administration to suggest names. As always, public comments are a good time to talk to the supervisors.

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Bob Ullenbruch

At the first June meeting a resident suggested naming the new Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) bridge on Route 6 after the name of the original 1800s bridge  that was there, Temperance Bridge. John Hartwell Cocke**, often viewed as a ‘founding father of Fluvanna’, was a Thomas Jefferson contemporary and also a supporter of temperance, a movement to stop alcohol consumption. The name would give reverence to Cooke.

To name a VDOT bridge, it will cost the county possibly a few thousand dollars. County staff will get final estimates from the state department. VDOT requires the county to foot the bill of making the signs.

Ullenbruch suggested not just naming a bridge in reference to someone from old Fluvanna history but of people who have made a difference in more recent history.

Steve Nichols, county administrator, suggested there are many public spaces that need names. He gave the example of county rooms that are rented that should be named to make identifying them easier.

Supervisors again will look to the public to give two cents or five minutes of time (length of public comments) to identify names that would be appropriate for everything from bridges to rooms.

The supervisors voted to accept a $10,000 gift that will be used to place a 20-station outdoor fitness track along the Heritage Trail.

“This really is a long-standing setup,” said Nichols.

The money was donated by the Heritage Trail Foundation. The fit trail will be at the Eastern Trailhead.

The board also approved a county-wide employee appreciation program. Last time the Board discussed the program, Ullenbruch left the meeting after Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said Ullenbruch sounded like a communist.

The program now includes a total county payout of $1,750 per year. There is yearly prize of a one-time bonus of $500 for the top employee in public service. If a group wins the award, it will be divided equally. The other five nominees for the yearly award will receive a one-time bonus of $250. Again, a group would divide the earnings.

The program was reduced in monetary size after supervisors voiced concerns with how much money was being asked. It still includes on the spot and retiree recognition.

Ullenbruch moved to pass the program with O’Brien seconding. It passed unanimously.

Supervisors also voted to buy the property currently being used as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. The county is currently paying $2,000 a month to lease the space.

Oddly enough, according to the county’s online tax records, the county sold the property to the current owner on April 29, 1999 for $76,000. The county is purchasing the property for the 2015 assessed value of $147,900. The fund balance will be used to pay for the property.

Supervisors will next meeting on July 15. The August schedule includes two meetings on August 5 but none the rest of the month.

—–

**John Hartwell Cocke name was misspelled in a previous version of this post nw 7/8/15

bryan-rothamel.jpgThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

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One response

  1. Timothy Charles | Reply

    By renaming the park, the county officials are allowing a popular, contemporary movement to redefine and rewrite history—the view that the Confederacy manifested entirely out of the motivation to maintain slave-labor is incorrect. The Civil War was something complex and it would be beneficial for our officials to recognize that and have the confidence and knowledge of their Southern history to leave the park’s name as is. Knowledge is power, Fluvanna. Doesn’t hurt to have a backbone, either.

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