Bangor is set to rename one of the city’s parks after a civil rights leader from the city in honor of his 90th birthday.
The city’s government operations committee unanimously voted on Monday to rename Second Street Park after Gerald Talbot, a longtime civil rights leader and the first Black person to serve in the Maine Legislature.
The project grew out of an effort by the city to honor Talbot as he celebrates his 90th birthday later this month. The Second Street park is close to where Talbot grew up in the 1930s and ’40s, city officials said.
Talbot played a significant role in passing legislation to create legal equality, including the Maine Human Rights Act and Maine Fair Housing Bill, and sponsored the first gay rights legislation in Maine history in the 1970s. Talbot also served as the first president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP and went to the March on Washington in 1963.
There are several specifications for renaming a city park in Bangor, according to a memo from Tracy Willette, Bangor’s parks and recreation director. These specifications stipulate that the current name “reflects negatively” on the property.
Willette noted that there had been “negative activity” in the park that may be associated with the current name. That includes videos of two homeless men being assaulted in the park in 2019.
“This request could also be an opportunity to ‘re-brand’ the park to hopefully encourage more positive behavior and activity in the park and serve as inspiration to those within the neighborhood,” Willette said.
When the park is being named for someone because of their civic service, city policy also requires the person to be deceased for at least five years. But Willette said that naming the park after Talbot while he’s alive would not defy the intention of that policy, as he is someone who had a career worthy of lasting recognition.
City Councilor Angela Okafor, along with others on the committee, said that the policy should be changed or that an exception should be made. They noted the importance of honoring people while they are still alive.
The name change will need to be heard by the full council before it goes into effect.
This is not the first time Talbot has been honored in the past few years: the Portland City Council voted to rename the Riverton Elementary School to the Gerald E. Talbot Community School in 2020.