HYATTSVILLE — The Hyattsville City Council voted unanimously to approve the next steps in changing the name of Magruder Park at their last meeting on Monday, March 18 which will allow the city administrator to initiate the necessary actions to advise the council on the name change.
Sponsored by Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) and six other council members, Solomon originally made the motion at their March 4 meeting to change the name of the park’s namesake William Pinkney Magruder due to his racist language at the time of donating the park.
“From the residents I have heard from, I think it will mean a lot,” Solomon said. “I think we as a community have invested a lot in being a progressive city and demonstrating that we want to respect the values of our community and I don’t think racism and segregation are values that we want to recognize. So I think it will be something that is well-received within the community.”
Magruder, a public official in Prince George’s County in the late 1800s, donated the park to the town with a requirement outlined in his deed that it be used by only white people.
“In trust nevertheless to hold said land as a public recreation park and playground to be known as William Pinkney Magruder, for the Caucasian inhabitants only of the said town of Hyattsville,” the deed said.
With the council’s latest vote, they will now take the next steps to move towards changing the name of the park.
According to Solomon’s approved motion, the city administrator will now investigate the feasibility and legal requirements of changing the name of the park without having to give ownership to the Magruder family. Although reverting ownership back to the Magruder family is possible, Solomon said he doubts it would get to that point and the process would continue smoothly.
The city administrator will also be tasked with looking into the feasibility and legal requirements of updating the deed to exclude the offensive language it originally contained. Within 120 days of the passage of the motion, they will report back their findings including any legal costs and additional action required by the council.
Once this step is finished successfully, the city council will enlist the help of the community in finding a different name for the park. Overall, the goal is to strengthen the city’s identity as a welcoming and diverse community.
Josue Blanco has been a resident of Hyattsville for most of his life and has come to Magruder Park often. For a long time he was not aware of the history behind the name of the park but now he feels like it would be “a good idea to change it.”
“From a general perspective, it would be a good thing to get rid of in 2019,” he said. “I’m all for positivity and making the park a more positive place.”
Moire Cronin has not lived in Hyattsville nearly as long as Blanco, having only moved into the area in January, and said she doesn’t feel attached to the name because of that. However, she said if the city council wants to change the name; it would depend on what they want to change it to.
“I think I wouldn’t complain if they left it, but it would be nice if they changed it to something that suited the park better,” she said.
The city council will involve the community on a search for a new name. Although they have not officially begun the name change process yet, Solomon said he has already heard suggestions such as Hope Park, Freedom Park, Suffragette Park or Mary Prangley Park after a former mayor of Hyattsville who was very involved in the community with town clean ups and rebuilding the community.
“I’m hoping to hear all of these thoughts and ideas that the community wants to present and I’m hoping at some point we can set up a task force to help the council sort through the many times that have come before the council. I think with that we can make a well-advised decision,” Solomon said.
Additionally, Solomon has been working with the Prince George’s County Council to initiate a countywide name change effort. With that, they will be covering streets, libraries, parks and schools and evaluating names for the same purpose as Magruder Park.
“When Wayne Curry was the first African American county executive we have a new generation of folks who moved into the county to a majority minority county and those elements and those individuals in our county choose to define their own future with which individuals deserve recognition through naming,” Solomon said.