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Still no Hankins memorial

The proposal to name an Oak Harbor city park or recreational area after the late Councilman Rex Hankins isn’t exactly dead, but the city’s volunteer parks board recently recommended doing away with the latest idea.

In fact, the board proposed a whole new way of naming and accepting donations for parks.

At a city council meeting last summer, council members decided against renaming the Bayshore Drive Flintstone Park in honor of Hankins, who died during the summer of 2000. Hankins supporters proposed the idea because the conservation-minded councilman had helped save the park from being moved in a land swap.

The parks board rejected the idea because Hankins didn’t fall under the city’s guidelines for park naming. Namely, he hadn’t been dead long enough.

But then Mayor Patty Cohen brought the proposal back to the city council last December because by then Hankins had been dead for more than the required year. But since there were not enough votes on the council, Councilman Bob Morrison suggested a compromise of naming the waterfront trail that runs through City Beach Park after Hankins instead.

The trail-naming proposal was then sent back to the parks board for review, but the board soundly rejected the idea this week. Now it’s up to the city council to make the final decision.

At the Monday morning meeting, parks board member Tom Hawkins read a three-page report on the park-naming issue. While the report refers to Hankins as a “pillar of the community” and “an advocate of fairness,” it also states that he didn’t really save the park. The report says pioneers and historical figures from the city’s past should be given priority in such memorials.

“This spot was and still is a favorite ‘walkway’ of most everyone in Oak Harbor, visitors and citizens alike,” Hawkins read. “So, to name this walkway on his behalf would be a grave injustice to those that preceded or follow him.”

Instead, Hawkins said the trail should be dubbed “the Oak Harbor Memorial Trail” in honor of all city residents past, future and present.

In addition, Hawkins argued that the city should create a “donation guide” to make the issue of park naming and memorials easier to deal with in the future. He suggested modeling the guide after the city of Bellingham’s gift guide, which has a full-color shopping list of improvements for parks — from benches to tree planting — that families can buy as a memorial to a loved one.

Hawkins said the parks board or parks staff could create a wish list of improvements they want for the city’s many parks which can be incorporated into an Oak Harbor parks gift guide with a price list. Then people like Hankins’ family and friends could simply pick a memorial from the gift guide.

Hawkins suggested a moratorium on park naming and accepting of memorial donations until after the gift guide is created. He gave up on the idea, however, after City Development Services Director Steve Powers recommended against it.

The recommendations will be forwarded to the city council for consideration.

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