Naming Public Spaces

May 19, 2007

Should the City honour the memory of fallen police officers and firefighters who gave their lives in performance of their duties? Absolutely.

But what is the most appropriate way? Earlier this year, I moved a motion for staff to bring forward a new-and-improved process for naming public spaces. Public spaces are for gathering, celebrating and inspiring our citizens. The naming of public spaces requires a policy and process that is fair, equitable and respectful. The motion passed – and our Community Design and Environmental Services department is working on it. There will be public consultation as well as input from various advisory groups such as Heritage Guelph.

Right now, we have a policy for street naming that mandates the commemoration of our WWI and WWII veterans. This is a wonderful way to honour those who fought for our freedom. City of Guelph Parks have a policy that parks will be named for those who have made contributions to recreation, sports and/or community service (or the subdivision or street name). This too is a wonderful way to honour those individuals who have contributed in a meaningful way to our community. Last year, the Edward Johnson Music Foundation asked that the public square in front of City Hall be named after Edward Johnson. Last month, three new parks were named after individuals who were on a list of nominees. All three were in new development areas.

We need a comprehensive policy for all public spaces – parks, trails, streets, squares, downtown greenspaces, buildings, and public areas within buildings.

Today’s Mercury brings up some interesting challenges. The daughter of a fallen officer is pushing to have a central downtown greenspace named to commemorate Officers Macauley and Holloway, both police officers killed in the line of duty. But this park already has a historic name, Lornewood, (and the IODE Fountain),  and the site location is not directly connected with either officer.

It’s a good catalyst for the city to get an improved process in place. There are others in our city’s history who should also be commemorated appropriately – two fallen firefighters, pioneers, city leaders, historical figures, etc. – who do not have public monuments, streets or parks named in their honour.  One case in point is Dr. William (Tiger) Dunlop – right hand man to John Galt – who many believe had more to do with Guelph’s early development than Galt himself. Goderich has a the Tiger Dunlop Trail, a civic square and a plaque to honour his role in the Canada Company.

In summary, a truly progressive city – one that respects its founders, leaders and fallen heroes – will rise to the challenge of developing a comprehensive and inclusive policy and process for naming its public spaces.

Tell me your thoughts – add a comment.

Leanne