Confederate Park

Fluvanna County is no exception, as the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors since the massacre, held on Wednesday afternoon (July 1), had on its agenda a close look at the county’s so-called Confederate Park.

Over a year ago new signage went up in many of the county’s spots of interest.  At that time, said County Administrator Steve Nichols, staff considered what name to put on the park’s sign.  They couldn’t find any records of a formal naming process, Nichols said, but had heard the park colloquially referred to as Confederate Park.  When they asked the Fluvanna Historical Society what name to put on the sign, Nichols said, it recommended Confederate Park.

Chairperson Mozell Booker, who put the issue onto the Board’s agenda, began the discussion, which remained polite and respectful throughout, by clarifying that supervisors were not looking to change the park itself.  “At no time are we thinking about doing anything to the park,” she said.  “We’re not thinking about moving anything… The monument that we have there, the Confederate monument, is a part of our history.  It’s Fluvanna’s history, it’s my history, and that’s something that we’re not looking to change.

“Now what I in particular, speaking for myself, want [is] to repurpose the park,” she continued.  “When we were doing the signage in the county about a year or so [ago] the park was named the Confederate Park.  That’s the only thing in the park, so it’s pretty natural that the signage would say Confederate Park.  Since then I’ve been thinking about repurposing it so that we could have other monuments in the park.  We could have a monument for our veterans of foreign war, [etc.]… It would be a park that would be inviting to everyone.”

For example, Booker said, the Emancipation Proclamation is now more than 150 years old.  She has had conversations, she said, about having a monument at the park in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation.  “It would be very appropriate in my own opinion if we could repurpose the park…[if] we could put some other monuments there,” she said.

“Is this the right time?” she asked rhetorically, considering the dialogue sweeping the South.  “It’s always the right time to talk about Fluvanna County.  I know it’s a lot about the Confederate flag and all that, and we understand – we’re mature adults.  This is just as good a time as any other… I think it’s a good time for us to put the discussion out there and then we can have the citizens give us their input.”

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch responded with lengthy comments of his own.  “The timing was what I basically questioned,” he said.  “We all have respect for each other… I don’t want to change history.  I don’t think it should change.  I think we should remember it, because if we don’t remember it we repeat it.  History doesn’t make sick, deranged people the way they are.  And there’s nothing that you or I can do anything about how some people act.  Taking visual things that don’t hurt people away doesn’t solve the problem.  You’re always going to have deranged, sick people in the world that see things in a deranged way and do things that we normal people can’t even imagine.  And that’s going to happen and it’s always happened that way.”

As for the park, Ullenbruch said, “I have no problem changing the name if it’s not a politically-correct thing, if it’s not going with what…a few people consider a solution to a problem, because it sure as hell isn’t a solution to a problem.  I don’t know what that solution is and I don’t think anybody knows.”

The park, said Ullenbruch, has “been sitting there for over a year.  The timing of this was just suspicious to me.  But if it’s for all the right reasons I’ve got no problem with calling it Memorial Park or Monument Park or whatever.  I’d rather not but if that’s what…” he trailed off, looking at Booker.

“It’s not what I think,” replied Booker.  “It’s what…” and she gestured to the audience.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien liked the idea of having Fluvanna residents recommend names for the park.  “The discussion around the naming of the park is apropos given the events that happened recently,” he said.  “I don’t think anybody’s intention is to eliminate history; in fact, we should all be proud of the history.  I’m sure that the volunteers that signed up on the South side and the volunteers who signed up on the North side each believed they were doing the right thing.”

O’Brien acknowledged a conundrum over the park’s name, saying, “Having a park, which three weeks ago nobody would have really paid attention to the name, and having a name that was sort of put there just to kind of try to highlight a marker and nothing beyond that, then now having an event that sort of begs the question as to what should we do…

“We can keep it as is and I don’t think anybody will care about that too much more in a few weeks,” he continued, “but by the same token now that the question is here, [do] we want to put a vote out to the community to say, what do you think would be a good name?”  With that, O’Brien seconded Booker’s idea of commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation.

During public comments, Marvin Moss, president of the Fluvanna Historical Society, weighed in on the park’s name.  “We’ve done a lot of research on this question,” he said.  “As you can imagine, the dedication of the Confederate memorial there was a very, very important event attended by hundreds and hundreds of people… There was never any mention of naming the little area around the memorial as Confederate Park.  If it became something along that line later on it was sort of an oral tradition, I guess, that grew up.”

A member of the historical society wants to donate a “suitable small stone” commemorating the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Moss said.  “That space could become a memorial to more than just the Confederate soldiers who fought and died and certainly deserve to be honored,” he said.  Urging a name like Memorial Park, he concluded, “I think that would really be the most appropriate thing, and it would also give us the flexibility of adding additional memorials to that little plot of land.”

The comments of Lake Monticello resident Steve Schoene sent a restless wave throughout the quiet room.  “The courage of the men who fought and died in that war should always be remembered,” he said.  “But the organization, the Confederate States of America, was an association of states whose purpose was almost entirely in the beginning to preserve the institution of slavery.”

As people began shifting in their seats, Schoene continued, saying, “That’s what all the secession documents of all of these states say.  It seems to be pretty clear.  It’s late in the 19th century that states’ rights become added to a list of what they were fighting for…

“I would prefer to see the name changed from Confederate Park,” Schoene concluded.  “Confederate to me implies the political sense of trying to preserve slavery, but Memorial Park does not bring that goal into this picture.  It’s talking about honoring people and their sacrifices.”

The county welcomes community input into the naming of the park.  “We’d like to hear your thoughts on what we should name the park,” O’Brien said.  Nichols invited residents to click on the “My Two Cents” feature on the county’s website ( to submit their comments and said a simple survey would go up soon.

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