Boulder teams up with university students to research history of park names, ensure equity

Courtesy of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department.
Emma Gomez Martinez Park renaming ceremony in 2013.

Boulder residents and visitors will now have a clear understanding behind the names of the city's parks.

Boulder Parks and Recreation Department partnered with the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Department of History to research the history behind each name.

“There have been lots of stories about parks and national monuments, and areas of the country that may have had controversial names. And, so our culture was having a shift towards possibly changing these names,” BPR spokesperson Jonathan Thorton said. “Now that we've become more aware of some of the history behind these we want to know, specifically in Boulder, we want to look into the names of our parks.”

Seventy undergraduate and graduate students worked on the project. Since 2020, the group has assessed 82 park names and the stories behind them. The purpose was to find missing stories and see how they reflect the community’s values.  

“They did fantastic work and they synthesized that down into some research presentations for our Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. And now, we’re happy to share that with the community as well,” Thornton said.

The research found parks were named under the following categories:

  • 29 parks were named after individuals or families
  • 26 parks were named after streets or neighborhoods
  • 7 parks were named after nearby landforms
  • 3 parks were named after flora or fauna
  • Remaining parks were named after businesses, schools and organizations

Boulder’s park naming process is outlined in the BPR’s Park and Naming Dedication Policy. An example of the community renaming a park to recognize the city’s culture occured in 2013. Canyon Park was renamed Emma Gomez Martinez Park. The Boulder activist was a member of one the city’s earliest Hispanic families. She advocated for a site of Quonset huts owned by CUI-Boulder to be converted into a park for the Latinx community.

BPR plans to continue studying park names to ensure they reflect the city’s values and Racial Equity Plan. The method will also be used in naming future parks such as Violet Park. The park is currently named after a street adjacent to an undeveloped site. It’s scheduled to be designed and built in 2022-2023.