DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas is no more. During a special session on Friday morning, the city's Park & Recreation board voted unanimously to rename the Confederate tribute, reverting to the original name of Oak Lawn Park. The location was known as this as far back as the 1890s, only changing when a Robert E. Lee statue arrived in 1936.
With that statue now gone, board president Bobby Abtahi said that the time was right to rename the park as well. "We need to move forward as a city," Abtahi said. "Parks are the last place where all are equal."
The measure temporarily lifts a six-year moratorium that the city has had on naming parks. The measure also approves up to $40,000 in related expenses. The biggest cost, Abtahi said, would be changing the granite sign with the park name, in front of the now empty pedestal where the Lee statue had previously been.
The Lee Park & Arlington Hall Conservancy, which has started informally referring to itself as just the Conservancy, oversees the care and management of the park. In a statement on Thursday, it "thanked city leadership for moving forward to restore the park's name."
"Much has happened in the last few weeks here at our urban oasis," Gay Donnel, president and CEO of the Conservancy, said in the statement. "The Lee statue was removed, and the Mayor's Task Force continues [to] debate all of the issues related to Confederate monuments. Nevertheless, the Conservancy is ready to begin planning for the future and talking to our neighbors about the vacant space left after the statue's departure."
The Oak Lawn Park name, for the immediate future, will technically be a placeholder, until the city can adopt a new policy for approving park names. Abtahi expects that to happen by the end of the year.
The Mayor's Task Force will also meet Friday to discuss renaming at least 10 streets in Dallas with Confederate ties. The most expensive one would be Lemmon Avenue. Spanning 242 blocks, it would cost the city an estimated $361,000 just to change the street signs. For comparison, Gaston Avenue is also up for a name change, but that would only take about $41,000.
There has been a petition circulating online to keep the street names intact, saying that many businesses and residents located along these streets would be left with a hefty price tag of their own as they would need to change over addresses on everything from deeds to bills.
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