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Race and Ethnicity

Klamath Falls votes to rename Kit Carson Park

City_Hall_-_Klamath_Falls_Oregon.jpg
Ian Poellett
/
Creative Commons via Wikipedia
Klamath Falls City Hall building.

A park in Klamath Falls named after the controversial American frontiersman Kit Carson will be renamed. The decision, first reported by the Herald and News, was voted on by the Klamath Falls city council on Monday night.

The small city park became a topic of discussion last year when the now-defunct Klamath Falls equity task force recommended changing its name.

19th century explorer Kit Carson is known throughout the western U.S. One part of his legacy was the forced removal and killing of Native Americans, including some in the area of present-day Klamath Falls.

Like similar movements to re-examine monuments to historic figures around the U.S. in recent years, the question of whether to change the park’s name quickly brought up concerns over whose history should be told.

“I think our history needs to be put in front of us,” said Councilmember Todd Andres, the sole no vote.

“What’s the next thing that’s going to come before council to be renamed?” he said during Monday’s meeting.

A recent community survey about renaming the park generated almost 1,000 responses. Almost 60% favored renaming the park, according to the city.

Councilmember Phil Studenberg voted to change the park name because, he said, it’s an affront to some native and non-native community members.

“Changing the name to something that can be more healing and can create more reconciliation is what we need to do,” he said.

The city council voted three to one in support of changing the name. The parks advisory board will collect suggestions that will be discussed in future public hearings. Staff from the parks board, who also voted to change the name, said they recommended including new signage that added background about the Carson name on the park for historical context.

“I don’t see this as erasing history,” Studenberg said. “History can still be discussed. Kit Carson’s legacy can still be discussed.”