Saturday, February 26, 2022

Still Life with Robin: Name That Trail!

by Peggy Robin

If you've been following the discussion on the Listserv that started with Message  , then you know that the name Melvin Hazen has been taken off the Trail, Park, Stream, and Gardens, all of which were formerly named in honor of the man who held the title of DC Commissioner, back when that was the federally-appointed equivalent of Mayor. But he's come to be recognized as someone unworthy of the honor (see this article in DCist for the reasons why).

Now comes the fun part: Choosing a new name. While we don't know what the process will be and how much public input will be sought, why not get the ball rolling?

We've already had a bunch of suggestions, including:

Springland Spur - message  #184912  
Tilden Trail - message  #184911  )
Wood Thrush Trail - message   #184883  
Eleanor Holmes Norton Trail - message  #184918  )
Poison Ivy Trail - message  #184914  

I'd like to run an idea up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. The basic concept is, people like to stick with sound of the name they've been using for ages. Find something close to that if you can. It's soothingly familiar and provides a sense of continuity. But you still need to complete the break from the identity of the individual you no longer wish to honor. So you look for a word that's close in sound but different in meaning - and far better suited to the place you want to rename.

Are you ready?

I suggest HAZING PARK and HAZING TRAIL. Why "Hazing"? Or rather, What is "hazing"? "Hazing" is what you should do if you encounter a coyote while out hiking. Yes, there are coyotes in Rock Creek Park, and while they typically pose no threat to humans, you still want them to think that you are a threat to them, so that they will steer clear of you -- and your dog, if you are out for a walk with your pet. You do that by shouting, waving your arms, making yourself look bigger than you actually are. "Hazing" has been explained on the CP Listserv before by Listserv member and coyote expert Megan Draheim in Message  #146745  . You can also read about how to haze coyotes on the Humane Society website here: And you can watch someone do it in this video:

Not only would "Hazing Park" keep the basic sound of the old name, but the name on NPS signs could explain why it's called that, giving instructions for hazing any coyotes you may encounter. A name both fitting and instructive! Doing double duty - how great is that!

I put it out there, but I'm not too hopeful that the Park authorities will be on board with the concept. I've already seen what happened when there was a push to keep the same familiar sound for our local high school. We needed to ditch the name Wilson, because we know the president whose name was on the school had done nothing good for the Black community in Washington; quite the contrary, he had ordered the re-segregation of the civil service in our city, causing many Black government workers to lose their livelihoods. I thought it a neat solution to substitute another Wilson -- not a politician but an African-American playwright, an award-winning one who chronicled the everyday struggles of Black families in a way that could resonate with students at the high school today.

But it was not to be. Though the late August Wilson won the popular vote, the City Council imposed its own compromise solution on the school, giving it a double-barreled name, Jackson-Reed, with Jackson as the first half, to honor Edna Jackson, the first Black teacher at Wilson and a much-beloved figure, and Reed in the second half, to honor its first Black principal, Vincent Reed, who later went on to be the Superintendent of the DC public school system. 

I'm offering Hazen now but I'll be happy with anything short and simple. Just saying right now, whatever we end up with should not be any longer or more convoluted than the trail itself.

Happy trails to all!
Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.  

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