For more than a century, a patch of grass in Peaceful Valley carried the name of one of Spokane’s founding fathers. Now it has a new title, taken from an even more ancient resident.
The Spokane Park Board voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to name the green spaces along the banks of Spokane River “Redband Park,” a tribute to the native species of trout that spawn in the area. The decision includes the area previously known as Glover Field, named in 1917 for the pioneering Spokane businessman James Glover, who served as mayor and helped plot the early town. Glover, however, also has also sparked controversy in recent years for the treatment of his first wife.
A proposal to name the area, which was once fishing and gathering grounds for the Spokane Tribe of Indians before becoming a playfield in one of Spokane’s oldest neighborhoods, has been in development since the early part of this year. It coincides with plans by the Spokane Indians to bring youth baseball to the field next spring, following a renovation of the field conducted in concert with KXLY-TV’s Extreme Team and the ballclub.
The proposal had the backing of the tribe, the team and the Peaceful Valley Neighborhood, representing a consensus that wouldn’t have been possible in years past, said David Brown Eagle, vice chair of the tribe’s business council after the vote.
“I came back here in 1972, from the military,” said Brown Eagle. “Back in ’72, we wouldn’t have had this discussion. It wouldn’t have happened. But it’s happened, because a lot of people love their parks.”
Otto Klein, senior vice president of the Spokane Indians club, told Park Board members his organization hopes to continue to fund efforts in Redband Park to bring awareness to the native fish, which was a staple of the tribe’s diet. That could include funding school field trips to the park to learn about the redband, and building viewing platforms to observe the trout spawning, he said.
“We want to have pieces there that honor the tribe, but honor the trout, the river, the cleanliness, the neighborhood, all those things,” Klein said. “The historical significance of James Glover, if we need to.”
The ballclub introduced Ribby, a new mascot highlighting the species of fish, last year.
Park board members were shown the results of an online survey taken in May, which garnered 264 responses. Of those, 61 percent said they preferred the Redband Field name for the previous Glover Field, with 22 percent asking to leave the previous name alone.
“Great idea! So honoring to the tribe and great for the river,” commented one respondent.
But others cautioned against dropping the Glover name due to concerns about his past. Glover’s first wife died a pauper in Eastern State Hospital after their divorce, a story that was recounted in Barbara Cochran’s 2011 book “Seven Frontier Women and the Founding of the Spokane Falls” and spurred a decision by the Spokane City Council not to name the plaza next to City Hall after Glover.
“You’re on a slippery slope, several of your buildings and highways are named after people that have very questionable pasts,” one commenter wrote.
Park Board member Chris Wright said he understood those concerns, but didn’t believe in this case there was enough of a connection between Glover and the field that bore his name to give him pause about voting for the renaming.
“I do think it’s a slippery slope,” said Wright. “There’s no evidence here that Glover had any special connection to this area, this part of the river.”
The Park Board will be responsible for approving any new signs that are installed in the park following the name change. The Peaceful Valley Neighborhood Council suggested installing a plaque near the field that would honor Glover’s memory.