ELKTON — When Merck and Co. requested that Elkton change the name of Stonewall Riverside Park, the town was left with two options — drop “Stonewall” or remove all references to Merck from park signage.
As the possible name change was discussed during Monday’s work session, Town Council members found themselves voicing mixed opinions, with three in favor of dropping all mention of Merck, two preferring to change the name to Riverside Park and one undecided.
“It’s just a name,” council member Louis Heidel said. “[Merck] never said why they wanted it changed.”
Merck, a pharmaceutical manufacturer located south of the town, donated land for the park several years ago. Stonewall Riverside Park is a separate park from Stonewall Memorial Park, which is also in Elkton.
In 1941, the Merck plant was called the Stonewall Plant, which is likely how the park got the name Stonewall, according to a previous interview with Casey Billhimer, the director of the Miller-Kite Museum in Elkton.
Council member Margaretta Isom said she is against removing the name Stonewall from Riverside Park. Since Merck donated the land to the town and is fine with removing its name from the park, she added, that is what should be done.
Council member Jay Dean said he supports removing Merck from the park’s signage, agreeing with council member Steve America.
“This whole thing is political,” America said. “If we give into this, what’s next?”
America told council members Monday that everyone he has spoken with regarding the park’s renaming was “sick of it” and against removing the Stonewall name.
Council member Randell Snow, who also serves as the town’s vice mayor, said he was sick of it as well, but thought this request is a special circumstance.
“My view is to change something no one ever knew about is pointless,” he said. “Rename the park to Riverside Park. This will be the only thing I vote to change.”
Mayor Josh Gooden reminded council members of the 1890 map of Elkton that depicted the park as Riverside Park, not Stonewall Riverside Park.
“It would make it more historically accurate,” Gooden said.
Council member Heidi Zander said she understood the reasoning behind keeping the name Stonewall, but would support changing the name to Riverside Park.
If council members were to keep Stonewall Riverside Park and remove all association of Merck from signage, they would also have to change the name of one of the park’s shelters from Merck Shelter.
All council members were in favor of changing the shelter’s name to Riverside Shelter and a vote on the shelter’s renaming will be taken up during Monday’s Town Council meeting. There will also be a vote on the park’s renaming.
Each item will be voted on separately, according to Gooden.