Hankins park proposal shot down

"Tempers flared over a seemingly innocent proposal to rename an Oak Harbor park after a deceased councilman Monday morning at the normally subdued Oak Harbor Parks Board meeting.City councilman Paul Brewer was in the audience and angrily lectured the parks board members after they unanimously decided to recommend against turning small Flintstone Park on Bayshore Drive into Rex Hankins Park.I feel the decision was very biased. I really feel hurt that the board didn't listen to the people, he said. That property would have a hotel on it if it wasn't for Mr. Hankins. I feel offended.Yet in making the decision, the board members simply deferred to a resolution on park naming that the city council, including Brewer, agreed upon in 1998. It sets the criteria for naming a park and seems to exclude naming one after Rex Hankins, at least for now.The resolution lists five different categories of people and things that a park can be named after, including any individual who makes a large donation to the city. The only category that Hankins could fall under - eventually - is an individual who has contributed outstanding civic service to the city and who has been deceased for a period of at least one year.Councilman Hankins died last July of complications arising from lung cancer.City resident Gene Coleman, who was Hankins' friend and political ally, proposed renaming a park as a tribute to Hankins' years of work as an elected official. Both men championed planned growth and work as self-appointed government watchdogs.Mayor Patty Cohen sent Coleman's request to the parks board for consideration. The board forwards recommendations to the City Council.Coleman said he thought it would be appropriate to name Flintstone Park after Hankins because he saved the park from a hotel development proposal several years ago. Also, Hankins created an ordinance that requires the city to get a vote of the people before any parkland can be sold or traded away.Hankins was no stranger to controversy during his life, and continues to be at the center of some even in death. Choosing his replacement earlier this year caused both confusion and controversy because a sharply divided council disagreed on whether to choose Helen Chatfield-Weeks or Sue Karahalios. In the end, Nora O'Connell Balda was voted in.At the parks board meeting, there were audience members who spoke passionately both for and against the renaming proposal. Former city councilman Mike Milat and Hankins-supporter Jerry Jones directed angry words at each other. Coleman and parks board chair Chatfield-Weeks also exchanged unpleasantries.Resident Sharon Votry said she didn't want to see Flintstone Park renamed since the park and its name has become part of Oak Harbor's history and cultural heritage.People grew up with the name, she said.On the other hand, Jones called Hankins' park-protection ordinance a tremendous achievement and something that will have long-lasting effects in Oak Harbor. It's something he says Hankins should be remembered for.He realized that our parks are the quality of life essence, he said. "

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