An idea to name a Tacoma park after “Dune” author and Tacoma native Frank Herbert has been shelved for now.
Officials with Metro Parks Tacoma have decided that a slag heap created by the former Asarco smelter is too far from being developed into a working park to be formally named yet.
As of Wednesday, 710 people had signed an online petition supporting naming the 12-acre parcel adjacent to the Point Defiance ferry terminal “Frank Herbert Park.” The popular science fiction writer was born in Tacoma and attended Stewart Middle School and Lincoln High.
But in an Aug. 23 memorandum, Steve Knauer, acting executive director of Metro Parks Tacoma, told members of the Metro Parks board that he thinks the agency should consider more suggestions from the public before naming the parkland.
“At this point it is my recommendation that since final development of this parcel is likely a number of years away, there should be consideration by the board to engage in a broader public outreach and involvement process to ensure that all options are explored,” Knauer wrote.
Parks board members agreed with Knauer’s recommendation at a meeting Tuesday, said Nancy Johnson, Metro Parks spokeswoman.
It will be a minimum of two years before parks officials can find the estimated $6 million to $8 million needed to develop the slag peninsula into a usable park, Johnson said.
“It just makes sense from a planning perspective to leave it as it is, until such time as funds are identified for it,” Johnson said.
Once that happens, parks officials will seek public input on the park’s proposed design and could solicit ideas for the park’s name as well, Johnson said.
Johnson said there’s no guarantee that naming the land Frank Herbert Park would help Metro Parks raise money to develop it. Right now, the slag peninsula is considered a part of Point Defiance Park, and doesn’t require its own name, according to Knauer’s memo.
“What has been our experience is it is not the name, but it is rather the amenities and the experiences provided to the community that determines fundraising potential,” Johnson said.
That doesn’t mean the name Frank Herbert Park couldn’t still be in the running. The name is consistent with Metro Parks’ naming criteria, which favors naming parks after historic events and people, as well as geographic landmarks.
“I don’t think it is dead by any means — I’m still hopeful,” said Metro Parks commissioner Erik Hanberg, one of the main backers of the campaign to name the area for Herbert.
“It will go through the public process now, which is a good thing, because it is a piece of land that a lot of people feel very strongly about, or have family or emotional connections to,” Hanberg said.
Brian Herbert, son of the late author, said he thinks redeveloping the section of Asarco-generated slag into a park named for his father is appropriate, given how the pollution from the smelter helped inspire the theme of environmental conservation found in “Dune.”
For a time, the Herbert family lived along Marine View Drive on the Tacoma Tideflats, with a clear view of Asarco’s smokestack and the fumes it emitted, Brian Herbert said.
“We were one of the Tacomans who actually suffered through that environmental damage,” he said. “And so Dad wanted to do something about it. It was not too long after that when Dad starting writing ‘Dune.’”
Metro Parks also received suggestions for naming the slag peninsula after Marco Budinich, an early Croatian settler in the area, or calling it Reflection Reserve.Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209