AUSTIN (KXAN) — One of east Austin’s oldest parks could get a name change soon.
Pan American Neighborhood Park or Pan Am Park has been a place for families to gather since the 1950s, but now discussions of a name change have some people in the community upset.
“We have to stand up and defend what we believe is right,” said Gavino Fernandez. “I live down the street from the park. I grew up, I was raised around the park’s programs and activities.”
Fernandez is just one of a handful of community members who showed up to speak out against a proposed name change to Pan Am Park. Others are supportive of the change.
“We strongly oppose the renaming of this wonderful park that belongs to the community,” said one speaker at Tuesday’s gathering.
“The adding of a name to a public park will take away not just the history of this park, but it will take away the work we have been doing to preserve buildings and parks and homes and people,” said Bertha Rendon Delgado, who is against the name change.
If approved, the park name would become Tony Castillo/Pan American Neighborhood Park. Tony’s son Derek is hoping his father’s name is added soon.
“It is really an effort by myself and some friends and family members to honor a man who has done great things in the neighborhood,” said Castillo.
Derek said his father has been a longtime community advocate, teaching and mentoring many community members over the years but also watching over the park.
Adam Goncales is for the name change and said renaming the park is a no-brainer.
“Tony just refuses to give up,” said Goncales. “He refuses to say that I have no more to provide, and he’s still very active in the community and at the park.”
Some who oppose the change would like to add a plaque with the names of multiple people who have given back to the community. One speaker at Tuesday’s press conference said she respects all Tony has done, but the name change is causing a division in the community.
“The Hispanic community, the Mexicano community, are trying to work together to preserve what little we have left here in east Austin,” said one speaker.
“Nothing has changed,” said Castillo. “No history will change. It will be intact. I feel we are adding to history, because we are adding someone who made a mark and did a lot of good things.”
As an alternative, Fernandez believes a “hall of fame” sidewalk or community center area would serve as a way to honor people who made a lasting impact in the community.
The Austin City Council is expected to vote on the name of the park Thursday.