Tacoma park renamed after first African American woman to serve as Washington state senator

Metro Parks Tacoma has renamed a local park after the first African American woman to serve as a Washington state senator, Rosa Franklin. 

"I said, are you sure? My reaction was I was surprised because that wasn't something I had expected," said Franklin, laughing with joy and surprise after hearing the news about the park. 

The park was previously named after Benjamin Franklin because of its proximity to Franklin Elementary School. Metro Parks says it's been renaming its parks since 2018 to better reflect local trailblazers like Rosa. 

"This was a really good opportunity the park board wanted to pursue, particularly in observance of Black History Month and the really great lady and stateswoman who contributed to Tacoma," said Parks director Debbie Terwilleger.

The name change is significant for Pierce County prosecutor Diane Clarkson who is a trailblazer herself. She was the first Black president of the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association. She's also a member of WILLO, a Tacoma-based nonprofit organization that celebrates the accomplishments of women and girls of all backgrounds.

"To have a park named after someone who lived and worked and done the grind right here in our community is very, very inspiring, particularly an African-American woman," said Clarkson.

This is just the latest push to remove names of historical figures in favor of local figures. Earlier this month, the Tacoma Public Schools Board decided to rename Woodrow Wilson High School to Dr. Dolores Silas High School amid racism concerns from the community. Board members are also considering changing the name of Jason Lee Middle School.

"The act itself is trailblazing and exciting. I'm excited for Tacoma, I'm excited for residents, I'm excited for generations to come," said Clarkson.

The next step in renaming Jason Lee Middle School is for the superintendent to make a recommendation to the school board. No date has been set yet.