washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Virginia

Naming a Site for Reagan Draws Mostly Opposition

By Sarah Park
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2004; Page LZ03

A proposal to name a public site in Loudoun County -- a school, road or park, perhaps -- after the late President Ronald Reagan drew mostly naysayers to a public hearing Tuesday night.

Two speakers, including Packie Crown, 49, of Gaithersburg, urged the Board of Supervisors to look beyond politics or geography and build a respite care center in his name.

_____Va. Elections_____
Terror Threat Complicates Election Plans in Region (The Washington Post, Oct 15, 2004)
Burk Wants Disclosure Forms for Council (The Washington Post, Oct 14, 2004)
10th District Challenger Has Eye on Bottom Line (The Washington Post, Oct 13, 2004)
Full Coverage

"Ronald Reagan put a name on Alzheimer's," she said in a quavering voice as she explained her family's struggle to care for her mother.

But Evelyn Johnson, 67, of Bluemont told the Board of Supervisors that naming a Loudoun landmark for a president with "no tangible link to Loudoun" would be "a gesture" not carefully considered.

Reagan's closest connection to Loudoun appears to be next door, in Fauquier County. During his 1980 presidential campaign, he lived at Wexford, the 46-acre retreat built for President John F. Kennedy near Middleburg just before he was assassinated. In later years, Reagan returned to the area to visit and ride horses.

Other opponents were less polite in their sentiments. "The Ronald Reagan-Oliver North Felons Make Good Role Models Jail" was one of several suggestions offered by Lovettsville resident Jonathan Weintraub, 44.

Two-thirds of the public comment and e-mail opposed the idea of a tribute to Reagan. But Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) moved to forward the proposal to the board's finance committee for consideration at its next meeting.

In recent years, the board has named four planned facilities, including a library and three parks, after figures of local or historical relevance. One of the most recently named sites, Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, which is planned to open in 2006, honors a former county administrator who served for two decades and died in June 2000.

But county spokeswoman Nancy McCormick said most of the 20 county sites or buildings named by the board are not named for people. County guidelines established in 1992 say that beliefs, ideals, concepts and historical events significant to the county or broader community can be the basis for naming parks and other public sites.

Keep Loudoun Beautiful Park on Route 7 honors the work of the committee by that name, which sponsors a county-wide trash clean-up each year. Legend has it that Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg was named decades ago when former owner Thomas Molloy heard shrieks across the small hills on his property.

"Maybe it was a barn owl, which makes an horrible sound," said Joe Coleman, president of the Friends of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, a volunteer organization. "It sounds like a woman being murdered."

The board accepted the preserve's name, which roughly translates from Gaelic to "ghostly spirit hill," in 2002.

Loudoun County public schools encountered controversy in 1998 when a committee proposed naming a new school for Margaret Mercer, an 18th-century Loudoun resident who freed her family's slaves and founded a school for poor girls. In the end, the chosen name was Stonebridge High School, and for a time there was a policy against naming schools for people. That changed in 2001, with the opening of John W. Tolbert Jr. Elementary School in Leesburg, named for the first black member of the Leesburg Town Council.

Since 1989, the library system has had a policy of naming library branches after their location. An exception was made to recognize generous donors, such at Rust Library, built with funds given by Margaret and William F. Rust Jr. Ida Lee Park next door to the library is named for William Rust's grandmother.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company