Councilman proposes renaming East Waco Park in Honor of former councilman

Posted at 11:41 AM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:31:26-04

Waco Councilman Noah Jackson Jr. proposed renaming East Waco Park to Rev. Wilbert Austin Community Park.

Austin, 76, who served as a councilman for more than a decade died last year after battling stomach cancer. Austin was also the pastor of the Peaceful Rest Baptist Church in Moody. 

Jackson who was selected to fill the final year of Austin's term pitched the proposal at the end of a council meeting last week.

"This guy was a hard-working, good person. We need more people like him in our community. He was always there when needed," Jackson said. 

He said his constituents brought the idea of changing the name in Austin’s honor to him.

"He put a lot of time into the city of Waco but he put a lot of more time into that park, getting it squared away for the community,” Jackson said.

North East Riverside Neighborhood President Jeanette Bell said she is not opposed to the name change if the majority of the residents in East Waco support it.

“As long as it is the voice of the people. I can do nothing else but accept it,” Bell said.

Bell added she would rather have the park named after Robert Lloyd Smith. The former Texas Legislator who lived in Waco was a leading African-American educator and public figure in Texas between the late 1800s and mid-1900s.

A school in Waco named after R.L. Smith used to be located across the street from East Waco Park. NeighborWorks now owns that property and plans to build houses on it.

"[R.L. Smith’s philosophy] aligns with the northeast riverside vision and mission to make this neighborhood, enjoyable, walkable and sustainable," Smith said.

Despite the other idea, Jackson plans to continue advocating to change the name of the park in Austin’s honor. 

"He was a role model in this city,” Jackson said.

NeighborWorks Waco President/CEO Roy Nash said Austin is very deserving of the renaming.

"We are promoting the renaming of the East Waco Park as the Wilbert Austin Park. Rev. Austin was a strong proponent of all of East Waco, and he worked tirelessly to clean up the Park from illegal activities that were prominent there over the past few years," Nash said.

For the renaming of a park, the proposal will first need to go the Historic Landmark Preservation Commission who would issue a recommendation to the city council. The council will make the final decision on the proposed change.

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