Linden City Council votes no to park name change

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Linden City Council ended the quest Tuesday night of changing the name of Austin Park.

The question of whether or not the council should take up the issue to rename the park in honor of Dr. E.W. Shields has been a debated topic during the past two city council meetings.

Even before taking office last fall, councilman Richard Lankster had been trying to get the name of the park changed to honor his great grandfather, Dr. Shields, who was a teacher and preacher in Linden during the early 1900s.

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According to Lankster, Dr. Shields donated land to the city where the park and George P. Austin Jr. High School sit today.

However, city attorney W.W. Dinning, Jr, who had been asked at a previous city council meeting to look up the land transaction, reported to the council last month that Dr. Shields conveyed a parcel of land to the trustees of Linden Academy in 1902.

Dinning said it appeared the land Shields transferred to the academy was not the land the park sits on today. The area where the park is located was actually part of a subdivision and was acquired by the city some years later.

At the last council meeting in January, Lankster presented a petition with fifty signatures from Linden citizens asking the council to change the park’s name, but that effort hit a brick wall this week.

Last night, councilman Dennis Breckenridge made a motion that the park remain named Austin Park and noted that sometime in the spring or summer the city would erect a sign and hold a grand opening celebration to commemorate improvements made to the park recently by the city’s public works department.

“I thought that maybe if the name could not be Shields Park then maybe it would be a consideration to change it to Austin-Shields Park,” Lankster said in reply to the motion.

Mayor Mitzi Gates responded by saying she felt that since the land the park is located on did not actually come from Shields, like they earlier believed, then it would not be appropriate to promote the park as originally coming from the Shields’ land transaction in 1902.

She said that the matter would be a better issue for the school board to handle (in naming something after Shields), since the land donated by him was given to Linden Academy and is used for George P. Austin Junior High.

Lankster said he would certainly be in favor of the part of the motion that commemorate the work done to improve the park, but not in keeping the name Austin Park.