UPDATE: City Council votes to not rename Tucson park

UPDATE: City Council votes to not rename Tucson park
Renaming a midtown park.
Officer Jeffrey Ross (Source: Tucson Police Department)
Officer Jeffrey Ross (Source: Tucson Police Department)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A unanimous vote from the city council will keep the name of midtown park as Alvernon Park. However, there will be another sign beneath the first that reads "John Ross Memorial."

The 7-0 vote was taken at a city council meeting on Tuesday, May 22.

According to the city of Tucson a separate sign in another part of the park will memorialize Ross, a Tucson Police Officer who was killed in 1982.

Earlier story: 

His kids are finding joy with each dig. The sandbox is the spot for Mariano Rodriguez's two young daughters.

"That's one of the great benefits in our neighborhood," said Rodriguez, talking about the proximity to his home.

The playful place, so close by, has become the center of a fight - over a name.

Tucson Police Department Officer Jeffrey Ross was 27 years old when he was shot and killed during a narcotics raid in 1982.

"Officer Ross was leading a team of narcotics officers into the office of the Ranch House Bar on north Casa Grande Highway when the bar manager, Clifford Hamilton, shot him in the chest. Hamilton was shot and killed as officers returned fire. Officer Ross died within an hour of the shooting," the Tucson Police Officer Memorial website stated.

Friends of Ross have petitioned the city to honor him to name a park in his honor. Currently, the park in midtown Tucson, near 5th Street and Alvernon Way, is simply titled Alvernon Park.

Ross lived across the street from the park as a child, from 1958-1970, according to several friends and neighbors.

"He still lived in the neighborhood. He was still part of the neighborhood," Rodriguez said, being in favor of the name change.

"We're trying to honor him with a memorial here, just not the park renaming," said nearby resident Nancy Huff.

Huff has been outspoken, as have several members of the Peter Howell Neighborhood Association, against naming Alvernon Park the "Jeffrey H. Ross Memorial Park."

She was one of several dozen neighbors who emailed the Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission in messages released publicly by the city, showing opposition.

"Very unfortunate comments we've heard over the months. It's been painful to some people," said John Sainz, a childhood friend of Ross and former fellow Tucson Police officer.

Sainz filed the initial petition for the name change.

"On July 10, 2017, Mr. John D. Sainz submitted a request to rename Rolling Hills Park in honor of fallen Tucson Police Officer Jeffrey H. Ross," according to the city council agenda. "After conducting a review of Mr. Sainz' request, staff determined that there was no connection between Officer Ross and Rolling Hills Park, however, there was a connection between Officer Ross and Alvernon Park. Officer Ross grew up in the Peter Howell neighborhood and often played in this park as a child. Alvernon Park was considered for renaming because the name was not commemorative in nature, but was named when developed for the nearby street, Alvernon Way or possibly the Alvernon Wash that runs through the park."

Those who played in the park with Ross in his youth feel the fallen officer's legacy is being tarnished.

"They didn't know him, they're just hearing about him, they feel no connection to him. But they need to hear his story. They need to hear from the people who knew him," said Gary Stone, who has lived in the Peter Howell Neighborhood since 1965.

The city council voted on Tuesday to keep the name as Alvernon Park.

Sainz said he has been willing to compromise with opponents of the name change, having seen other parks around Tucson that keep their name but are dedicated to a community member. For example, Menlo Park near N. Grande Avenue and St. Mary's Road is titled "Menlo Park - Dedicated to Edward Moreno," who retired in 1982 after 34 years of service to the City of Tucson.

If the city council votes to keep the name as Alvernon Park, Sainz said he will "respect their decision."

And if they change it, Huff will accept the result.

"Well, then life goes on," she said. "That'll be alright. But right now, if we can negotiate, where we each get a little bit of a win, then that's the perfect ending. That's what we'd really like to see happen."

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