Opinion

Park’s name brings split city closer

So, how many locals can state the official name of the big park on Snoqualmie Ridge?

Proponents of a name change at Snoqualmie Community Park say that the most people who live near or use the 33-acre facility don’t know its name. They describe it by nearby streets or athletic fields (the “soccer field” park), or even name it for the swirly, crop-circle-reminiscent paths at its summit (“UFO Park”). Until last week, Snoqualmie Community Park didn’t have an official name.

But a decision by the Snoqualmie Parks Board seems to have permanently fixed that. The parks board voted unanimously at its June meeting to name the 16-acre S-15 park, located at the summit of the Ridge’s Phase II development, for former major Jeanne Hansen, who led the community for 10 years and helped pioneer the Snoqualmie Ridge development, before losing reelection to Randy “Fuzzy” Fletcher. She died in 2001.

Hansen’s legacy resonated with current Mayor Matt Larson. Even as a council member, Larson wanted to honor Hansen’s leadership by naming the unnamed community park atop the Ridge. But the idea never came together.

At renaming effort fell through a few years ago, and the parks board agreed this summer to name the S-15 park for the former mayor. Larson stepped in to forward a competing resolution to council, and local worthies including former Weyerhaeuser land use manager Dick Ryon, historian Dave Battey and city Attorney Pat Anderson publicly supported the change.

But when the matter came to a vote, four of the seven council members voted against changing Snoqualmie Community Park’s unofficial but apparently firm moniker. The council then unanimously named the future Ridge II park for Hansen.

Hansen’s decisions generated some controversy, and the years immediately following her tenure were apparently not the right time for a legacy. But, her efforts to create the Ridge allowed Snoqualmie to gain a new and prosperous identity, growing by 600 percent along the way. The vast majority of Snoqualmie’s current residents never met or perhaps have even heard of Hansen, but they are here because of what she did.

What’s in a name? Plenty. Naming a park, street or building after a noteworthy figure helps keep that person’s contribution alive. Just by going to the park, residents and visitors may learn more about their own legacy, and meet, at a distance, the people who made a difference in their town. Generic names just don’t tell the same kind of tale.

A few years ago, Snoqualmie Valley School District had a chance to name the new Twin Falls Middle School after Clara Vinup, a cherished grade school educator who taught for more than 50 years. However, a stalemate on the school board vote led to Twin Falls being chosen. A compromise was proposed by naming the school library after Vinup, but one wonders what the impact to young people, especially girls, could have been if their school had been named after a pioneering and tireless female teacher.

The future Jeanne Hansen Park will be a fitting legacy for her accomplishments. More than that, the new name unites the Ridge’s first and second phases with downtown. Too often, Snoqualmie is described as three different towns. Hansen Park reminds us how this community is united.

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