DALLAS - The Dallas Park and Recreation Board voted on Thursday to change the name of Oak Lawn Park to Turtle Creek Park.
The park was originally named Oak Lawn Park, but it was changed to Robert E. Lee Park in 1938. The park board voted to have the name revert back to Oak Lawn Park temporarily after the controversial removal of the Lee statue in September 2017.
A group called Take Back Oak Lawn was fighting to keep the park name Oak Lawn Park. But the non-profit that pays to maintain the park argued they could raise more money with the name Turtle Creek.
“I was there when people showed up with semi-automatic guns to the place where people just walk their dogs every day,” recalled Robert Abtahi, the president of the Park and Recreation Board.
The Turtle Creek Conservancy says the Robert E. Lee statue protests drove away crucial wedding business.
“People didn't want to book events at a place where there were police cars and people with guns and protestors,” said Gay Donnell, president and CEO of Turtle Creek Conservancy.
The conservancy argued that donations and rentals are still lower with the name Oak Lawn Park. It’s why they gathered 900 signatures to rename it Turtle Creek Park.
“When a big chunk of their revenue stream is predicated on donations, memberships, and rental fees, and all three are under siege because of ambiguity, I think we all have to be sympathetic to that,” said board member Rodney Schlosser.
But Take Back Oak Lawn Co-founder Lee Daugherty questions that.
“I would like the clarification of why Oak Lawn costs donors or why Oak Lawn can't book weddings,” he said. “I think there are larger issues at play here.”
There are social media concerns that the name change is tied to Oak Lawn's prominent LGBTQ population.
“To construe this as any type of anti-LGBTQ issue is wrong,” Abtahi said.
The park is in Oak Lawn, but it is also on Turtle Creek Boulevard. Turtle Creek also runs through it.
The park board voted 11 to 3 in favor of the name Turtle Creek Park.
The Turtle Creek Conservancy plans to have a new sign up to name the park Turtle Creek as soon as possible and no later than 90 days from Thursday.