Chelsea King Memorial Park: A Do or a Don’t?

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chelsea kingBy now most of us have heard the tragic outcome of Chelsea King, a smart and talented San Diego teen who was raped and murdered while out running by the Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her suspected rapist and murderer, John Albert Gardner III is currently being held without bail after predictably pleading not guilty.

Now, in honor of the fallen teen, online efforts have begun to rename the Rancho Bernardo Community Park to the Chelsea King Memorial Park. Groups and pages on Facebook and a petition website have been created in order to rally up supporters to rename the park.

Yet, as heartbreaking of a story as the Chelsea King piece is, like many appeals to changes in a community, there are always supporters as well as critics.

Critics of the renaming idea argue that naming a park after a murdered victim of a sex offender would be hard to explain to younger children and would also be difficult for the family, a constant reminder of their murdered daughter. However, supporters of the renaming maintain that the government owes Chelsea and her family this after “letting” Chelsea get killed by a known sex offender.

Renaming buildings, parks, freeways, and other public locations after certain individuals is a common cultural practice, so why so much controversy in this case? What makes a landmark suitable for a name change and who are or should be the deserving few honored by this custom?

San Diego resident for over 10 years, I now call this beautiful city home. Originally from the Bay Area, I'm a California girl at heart. I love the outdoors, fitness, food, and a good craft beer (from San Diego of course).


  1. Mary

    March 11, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I think naming the park after Chelsea is a great idea. Too many times, when something like this happens, it’s in the news for a while and then is forgotten about or swept under the rug. Chelsea was a real person, who’s life was cut short by someone who never should have been out on the streets in the first place. I don’t think the public should ever forget how the justice system failed her.

    As far as “explaining to younger children”, why shouldn’t they have it explained to them? The parent doesn’t have to go into detail…if the child is young and asks about the name a simple, “She was a child that used to like to come to the park.” would be a fine. If they are older and ask, then more detail can be added. I think that’s a stupid argument that the critics are using.

    And as for “a constant reminder to the family”…really? That is going to be in their memory every day for the rest of their lives. I have a daughter that is only a year younger than Chelsea, and I would find a measure of comfort in having my daughters name memorialized.

  2. DL

    March 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I feel naming the whole park is not appropriate. I live in RB near the park and to me naming it after such an event would remove the sense of community for me. No longer would it feel to be a community resource but a memorial for a particular person. Now if that person was a foundation in the community and spent years/decades giving to it than that is different. But for a tragedy, what about all the others lives that get cut short? How many people die each year at an early age in tragedy?

    I don’t want a constant reminder of a great community resource that was darkened by a tragedy staring me in the face every time I pass it. I feel the push to rename the park is more selfish than my wanting to keep it the same name. Wait a year, than work to rename it and see what happens.

    For those who say it is owed to her… while the Gov has a responsibility for balancing our civil liberties and removing those in the society that are problems, it DOES NOT ABSOLVE US for OUR OWN PERSONAL REPSONSIBILITIES. People have traveled in groups since the dawn of man for their own protection from both other people and animals. I grew up in low crime community, but the local PTA ladies still left meetings in groups with keys already in hand, waited for each other to start their cars and never parked near a panel van. I still do that for my friends and family. I am a male in my mid 30’s and I rather run with somebody else then alone (heck I may have a heart attack or twist an ankle). And when I do run alone I stick to well populated areas, regardless of the time of day.

    Personally, I am very upset about what happened to her- I have a 14 yr old daughter – but I if it was my daughter that it happened to I would not be pushing for a whole park to be renamed in fact I would be against it. Memorials do not have to be grand nor big to be important or relevant.

    I would strongly support immediately naming a Memorial Garden or a trial in the park for her, but not the whole thing.

  3. mpj

    March 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    The U.S. is a mess. Women getting murdered jogging, groped and drugged in clubs, and so many other violent acts upon them. I think it’s a great idea to do this for this young teen. People will remember her. Too many times after a short time these victims are forgotten. The criminal justice system, and society is pathetic for a first world country. RIP to this young lady and a great way to help her memory live on is to honor her.

  4. mpj

    March 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    P.S. are parents that suffocating and overprotective that they can’t help their kids or themselves deal with life and the circumstances of tragedies? Should we not do memorials for 911 or murdered presidents because it will remind us or a dark day? Good God; how self absorbed and unfeeling. Part of society is violent and evil, and the rest want to just hide and not deal with it. Sorry but bad things even happen in San Diego.

  5. LL

    March 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    DL said it well and I agree with the points he made. Seems like more of a constant reminder of a horrible act that took place there more than a celebration of this young girl’s life. We see crosses all along the freeways and highways where folks lost their lives. It always saddens me to see them. Would not this park be tainted if renamed as her “memorial park”? Perhaps a trail, lovely rose or flower garden, but I agree with DL – not the entire park. And even at that, first ask her parents if they are okay with that. She will likely have a grave and that might be enough of a monument for them.

  6. JL

    March 11, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I dont think we should rename the park. We need to have stricter laws, and more signs and self defense for young teens. I would suggest doing something more appropriate at PHS, Chelsea’s Law, Chelsea’s Self Defense Class as requirement for teens before graduating from high school, allow kids to carry mace, pepper spray, weapon to fight their attacker. Whistle, alarm, anything to draw or distract attacker to get away.

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