COLUMBIA — The Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to forward to the City Council three potential new names for Old 63 Roadside Park — Sterling W. Wyatt Memorial Park, Patriot Memorial Park and Old 63 Roadside Memorial Park.
The move to rename the park began last spring when the Shepard Boulevard Neighborhood Association proposed a name specifically in honor of Wyatt, who was killed in July 2012 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, by an improvised explosive device.
Wyatt grew up on Danforth Drive, just two blocks away from the park in east Columbia, where his parents, Randy and Sherry Wyatt, still live. During his high school and early college years, he worked across the street from the park at the Bee Line gas station and convenience store just before joining the army.
Former Neighborhood Association Chairman Rod Robison said he was inspired to work on renaming the park after digging through photos from last summer of the hundreds of U.S. flags lining Shepard Boulevard as part of Wyatt's funeral procession. Robison is now vice chairman of the neighborhood association.
"After a short time, everybody moves on," Robison said. "We need to do something so that everyone remembers."
In a memo to the commission, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said that the department receives multiple requests to rename parks in honor of lost loved ones but that he could only recall one instance in the past 26 years when a park was named after a specific Columbia resident: Clyde Wilson Memorial Park, which was previously Rock Hill Park.
In a phone interview before the commission meeting, Griggs said that this request was different because it was backed by an entire neighborhood association. In consideration for other local military service members killed in action, the department recommend five more general names, including Patriot Memorial Park.
Commission member Bill Pauls insisted that Wyatt's name be among those forwarded to the council, arguing that honoring someone who grew up right next to the park would not diminish anyone else's military service.
The commission also discussed the possibility of including a memorial or wall, to which the names of other Columbia residents killed during military service could be added.
Griggs said the department will submit a report to the City Council asking for its final choice, possibly as soon as its next meeting on Oct. 7. The department will then draft an ordinance based on the council's decision.
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