Aug 11, 2022 - News

Florida county's naming of a park after DeSantis is drawing shade

Illustration of someone using a lawnmower to etch Ron DeSantis' face into park grass.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Manatee County's newest park will include things the vast majority of residents like: wetlands, shade trees, walking trails, open space, restrooms.

Yes, but: It's the new name that's rubbing some the wrong way.

Driving the news: The $3 million, 17-acre neighborhood park, which many residents already call Kinnan Park, is expected to be officially named after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, but not without controversy.

Flashback: The county ran an online survey earlier this year soliciting name suggestions from locals.

  • SouthPark, Joan of Park, Friendship Park and Inclusion Park were among the mix of serious and silly names.
  • Most popular during the first five weeks was Prospect Park with 27 votes. DeSantis Park had only six.

Then: Late last March, just before the survey closed, suggestions for Gov. Ron DeSantis Park flooded in β€” 91 out of the next 128 suggestions, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Between the lines: Mike Rahn, a Republican running for county commission, took credit for stirring votes to DeSantis Park, per the Bradenton Herald, saying, "It's a great opportunity for our governor."

  • And the Republicans on the commission agreed, assuring residents that everything was on the up and up.

The other side: Commissioner Misty Servia accused Rahn of manipulating the survey.

  • "I don't like that a local neighborhood park has been hijacked and manipulated for political reasons," Servia said at a meeting back in March.

The mystery: The county released the survey results, but redacted names and addresses, so it's unknown whether all votes came from Manatee residents.

What they're saying: "I'm glad it's moving forward," resident Glenn Gibelina told the Herald-Tribune of the park. "That whole area has been marginalized for way too long. Disappointed with the name."

What's ahead: The board will put the park name up for a final vote at a later date, per the Herald. The park could open in early 2023.

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