Fritz: Southwest Portland's 'Custer Park' will be renamed
A park in Southwest Portland formerly called Custer Park is slated to be renamed.
At the direction of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the city's Parks & Recreation bureau, city staff will begin the engagement process to find a new name for the public recreation area.
Fritz, whose term on the council ends Dec. 31, released a statement Wednesday, noting the park will be referred to as "A Park" until a suitable name is chosen.
"As my time on the City Council comes to an end, I am making the executive decision that effective immediately, Custer Park shall no longer be known by that name," Fritz stated. "Over the next year, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will work with neighbors, community stakeholders, historians, and Indigenous Peoples to choose an appropriate and honorable name for this beautiful park. Until a suitable name is selected, Custer Park will be referred to as 'A Park.'"
The current park is named after General George Armstrong Custer, an American Civil War general who also served as commander in wars against Native Americans. He is known to have decimated at least one Native American village, and at one point in 1867, was found guilty of misconduct after abandoning a mission, leaving him suspended from military service without duty or pay for a year. Critics of the park's name point out that Custer has no connection to Oregon.
The park sits at Southwest 21st Avenue and Capitol Hill Road.
Fritz said renaming the park will allow the public space to better represent Portlanders and their values.
In a statement, the commissioner said public spaces should "echo who we are and what we aspire to be."
"I've lived in SW Portland for over 30 years, and it's long been clear to me that the name of Custer Park in the Multnomah neighborhood needs to be changed," Fritz stated. "While the park itself is a treasured community asset and gathering space, its name does not represent the park nor capture the relationship Portlanders want to have with this wonderful place. Worse, it glorifies a military oppressor instead of honoring the courageous Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors who defended their homelands in what is now Montana."
By Wednesday, Portland Parks & Recreation had already swapped the old park name on its website.
Fritz's announcement echoes what some Portlanders have been lobbying for for years. Roughly two years ago, a petition was started on activism site Change.org, to have the park renamed Beatrice Morrow Cannady Park. Morrow Cannady was a Portland-based civil rights advocate, newspaper editor of The Advocate, and a co-founder of Portland's NAACP chapter.
The petition garnered nearly 1,400 signatures, many of which were added this year.
The park is the second public space in Southwest Portland undergoing a rename process. Wilson High School is also slated to be renamed in 2021.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.