Residents upset over decision to change Statesville park name

A heated debate has started after a Statesville park was renamed after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

STATESVILLE, N.C. -- Hundreds of citizens in Statesville are protesting the city’s decision to rename long-standing Lakewood Park to “Martin Luther King Jr. Park.”

Council voted to change the name in April, and while many have applauded the decision, others are pushing to have the name changed back.

During a public hearing Monday, citizens packed into city council chambers to voice their opinions.

“This is not a racial issue, it’s just that some things actually do need to stay the same,” one woman urged.

“Where do brown or black people go in the city of Statesville?” another man shot back.

A big concern raised by many was the fact that the name change was voted on without public notification or a citizen hearing.

“The process was very closed-door and very quick,” Sassy Smyth said.

Some residents even threatened to move if the new name sticks.

Those who support the change say the fierce opposition is discouraging.

“When you say, ‘I'm never going to go there again, I'm never going to take my kids there if you change it,’ and I'm saying the park isn't going anywhere, it's just the name that’s changing,” Brian Summers said.

But it's enough to draw significant criticism. A Change.org petition to change the name back to Lakewood has gathered more than 1,200 signatures. 

"We are on the parks as taxpayers and residents, I just thought it was odd that this happened so quickly," Smyth said. 

City Council gave no indication Monday that they are willing to go back on the name change. The new signs for the park will cost $4,000 and should arrive in the next few weeks. 

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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