When it comes to green grass, Scottsdale has been known for decades as an innovator. Think Indian Bend Wash greenbelt, a far more attractive way to move floodwater safely than the originally proposed idea of a concrete channel.
Regrettably, over those same decades, city officials lost their imaginative spark when it came to naming that grass — and a lot of other things that neighboring cities have chosen to designate with the names of local notables.
Thankfully, the wash already had a poetic, historical name — “Indian Bend” — or City Hall might have slapped the greenbelt with one of the flat, location-based names it gave to other green spaces here.
This week’s decision by the City Council to rub out the name of the Villa Monterey Golf Course and replace it with Camelback Park, a name chosen only because of the street it’s on, shows that far more thought needs to go into naming city parks and other landmarks than obviously does.
I can imagine what somebody at City Hall is paid to come up with “Camelback Park.”
Camelback Mountain, by the way, isn’t even in Scottsdale, but sits on the border between Phoenix and Paradise Valley.
And some city staffer many years ago came up with these names: Indian School Park, Chaparral Park and Cactus Park, which are named for what? Community leaders, heroes, people to look up to?
No. They’re named for streets, streets on which they’re located. Streets that in most cases were originally named by Phoenix officials long before those thoroughfares extended into Scottsdale.
If the city insists on location-based names, then since most everybody in Scottsdale knows where the Villa Monterey course is/was — and, ta-da!, without a clue in its name about what street it was on — why not call the soon-to-be new city park Villa Monterey Park?
Doesn’t that sound a lot better than just slapping “Camelback” on it because it’s on Camelback Road?
Even better, Scottsdale has been incorporated since 1951 and in existence since 1888. Certainly in more than 120 years there are some people from here who deserve to have their names on a park.
Not even Scottsdale’s founder, Winfield Scott, has a city park or even a city building named for him. You could say that the name of the city itself is honor enough, but that didn’t stop Chandler from naming its downtown square green space, A.J. Chandler Park, after that city’s founder.
In Tempe, names of the community’s honored residents are on most of the city’s parks.
And in Mesa, names of the Mormon pioneers who were that city’s founding families are on many city parks. Heck, Mesa has even done one up on Scottsdale in the Western-image department by naming one of its parks Gene Autry Park after the famed Western singer, actor and entrepreneur.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that many of Scottsdale’s parks do have fine names. Several honor American Indian tribes, for example.
And it’s hard to find a more lyrical name than Eldorado, the elusive city of gold longed for by the Spanish conquistadores.
But with nearly a century and a quarter of history, there’s a dearth of respected, revered residents’ names here. Are we in Scottsdale as shallow as our many critics from the outside say we are?
The only exception seems to be the beloved, late former Mayor Herb Drinkwater, who has a boulevard, a peak in the McDowell Mountains and a few awards named for him.
But Scottsdale’s first mayor, Malcolm White, should also be honored with a park, because his name is on no city property that I know of.
Let’s get back to the drawing board.
Maybe some stalwart residents can form an independent committee to review nominations of deserving, yet currently unsung, Scottsdale people to have their names put on new city parks.
Current parks, too, because frankly, we should scrap “Camelback” in favor of someone we could look up to who isn’t a mountain.