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South Austin park is nameless no more

Friday, September 5, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Though discussion remained contentious up until the bitter end, the third time proved the charm last week for a once-nameless park in South Austin.

City Council christened the park at 3000 Del Curto Road “The Tom Lasseter South Lamar Neighborhood Park” in a vote of 5-2, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Bill Spelman voting in opposition. The name was a compromise between those who wanted to name the area “Tom Lasseter Park” and those who wanted to name it “South Lamar Neighborhood Park.”

Council Member Mike Martinez suggested the new name, which combined the two options that had divided Council, as it had split almost every group who tried to name it before.

Council had voted on the name twice previously and discussed it one other time without voting. It had also been a source of conflict within the neighborhood and at the Parks and Recreation Board, who was unable to offer a recommendation to Council members.

Though there was a suggestion to get more public input, Parks and Recreation Department Director Sarah Hensley said that would most likely be unfruitful, and it was time to make a decision.

“Honestly, we’ve beat this one up and down. We’ve been back and forth … This is one that we just don’t have an agreement on, and we have tried our best,” said Hensley. “We have beat the bushes getting out to the public and talking to both sides. We really are at a point where I think that any more public input is going to gain that same amount of information you have right here before you. And it is split.”

Those who hoped to name the park after Lasseter, who had included a slight majority of Council in past votes, thought it was an appropriate way to honor an Austinite who had once owned the land. Among other things, Lasseter served in both World War II and the Korean War. He was the architect responsible for the Holiday Inn on Lady Bird Lake, and was involved with the city’s Kiwanis Club, YMCA and Indian Guide program.

On the other hand, the park was the result of a yearslong fight by the neighborhood, who wanted to be recognized for their hard work in its establishment.

Martinez had previously supported naming the park after Lasseter alone, but changed his view after talking to the neighborhood. He said that he wished the neighborhood could have crafted a name that both sides agreed on but realized that wasn’t likely.

“I wish there could have been a compromise. But each side seems somewhat intransigent. I’m just trying to bridge that gap and incorporate both names, which are both deserving of this space,” said Martinez.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole suggested the city stick with the plan of naming the park after the neighborhood association and the bridge within the park after Lasseter. This proposal was countered by Leffingwell, who proposed that the city name the park Tom Lasseter Park, and name the bridge after the neighborhood association. Neither of these ideas were embraced.

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