The parks advisory board for the city of Klamath Falls will compile a report and survey the community before making a recommendation on whether or not to rename Kit Carson Park.

Klamath Falls City Council will make the final decision on the matter.

Changing the name of the park, which was named after a man who killed a number of Klamath Indians in the 1800s, was a recommendation made in August by the now disbanded Klamath Falls equity task force.

The parks advisory board — which includes Daniel Blake, Nancy Thomas, Todd Kepple, Michael Garrard, Kristen Hiatt, Jim O’Connor and Kaitlin Hakanson — is currently researching the life and deeds of Carson and plans to send out a community survey to get residents’ thoughts on the name change.

The contention stems from Kit Carson’s role in the murder and genocide of indigenous people during both his time serving as John Frémont’s guide into the Klamath Basin, as well as during his time serving in the U.S. military in numerous wars against Native Americans.

Michael Garrard, director of communications and sports information at the Oregon Institute of Technology, and Nancy Thomas, president of Friends of Ella Redkey Pool, both sit on the parks advisory board.

Garrard and Thomas said the topic of Kit Carson Park came up for the first time at the board’s last meeting.

“It hasn’t been determined whether or not we are going to change the name,” Garrard said. “We are in the initial stages on this issue.”

Garrard said the board will not rush the decision. He estimates it will take several months — possibly not until next spring or summer — before the board brings its recommendation to the city council for consideration.

“This isn’t something that has to be changed today, if it is changed,” he said.

Garrard said he has been doing his own research into Kit Carson and so far remains neutral on the matter.

“I think everyone on the parks board in our initial meeting had the concept that we are going to go in with an open mind,” Garrard said. “We want public input and we want to be transparent as a parks board. We will make sure there is enough time for public input.”

Thomas said the community survey will be broken into two parts: The first will ask whether or not to rename the park, and the second will ask for suggestions about what the park’s name should be changed to.

“If the consensus is that it should remain the same, then we will present that to the city council,” Thomas said.

Joey Gentry, a member of the Klamath Tribes and a former member of the equity task force, said the work she and her colleagues did as part of the task force was an “insulting waste of our time.” The task force had already done the work to research Carson and had spoken with a diverse group of Klamath residents and heard their opinions.

“In my mind this reaffirms and exemplifies the need for an equity task force made up of a diverse group of people,” said Gentry of the current process playing out with the parks advisory board. “The people in power are unwilling to see the wrong in that we have a children’s park named after someone who committed genocide and bragged about it.”

“We are taking a shovel and digging up some very deep roots of racism and white supremacy,” Gentry added.

Emma Marris, a local writer and also a former member of the equity task force, said she believes a permanent equity committee, which the city promised to compile in its resolution, would be the appropriate body to handle the question of renaming Kit Carson Park.

“If there was a permanent equity committee at the city, they would have probably handled this better,” she said. “It seems unnecessary to re-litigate the career of Kit Carson. Our task force already spoke to the Tribes and their wishes are clear, and that should probably be the end of the deliberations.”

During a city council work session meeting on Monday, Oct. 18, Gentry spoke to city council during the public comment section, voicing her disappointment in the city’s decision to disband the equity task force and, as she saw it, close the door to further equity work in the community.

“(Renaming Kit Carson Park) was the one recommendation with the path of least resistance in my mind,” Gentry said. “I thought it could be done in a short period of time. And if we want the community to be involved with naming it, that’s great.”

John Bellon, parks and recreation public relations manager and urban forester for the city, said members of the advisory board will do their own work.

“There are plenty of resources out there people can draw on,” Bellon said. “(Board members) have been asked to do research so they have a better foundation perhaps to understand historically how things were in the past.”

During Monday’s City Council meeting, the council encouraged members of the community to come to the next parks advisory board meeting.

The board meets every second Thursday of the month, with the exception of November due to Veterans Day, Bellon said. The next meeting will be on Nov. 4. from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the city administration building, 500 Klamath Avenue.

— Reporter Joe Siess can be reached at (541) 885-4481 or jsiess@heraldandnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @jomsiess