Literary buffs and sci-fi fans rejoice.
Tacoma is closer than ever to naming 11 acres on the edge of Commencement Bay in honor of author Frank Herbert and his classic series, “Dune.”
If it happens — which increasingly feels like a lock — it will have been a long time coming.
On Thursday, after a lengthy bureaucratic process, Metro Parks Tacoma staff forwarded an official recommendation to the agency’s board of commissioners. It calls for the ASARCO Superfund slag heap that’s being redeveloped as part of the Destination Point Defiance project to be forever known as The Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park.
A further recommendation calls for The Frank Herbert Trail to be one of the new park’s amenities.
While the Metro Parks Board will have the final say on the matter — and it’s the elected body’s prerogative to deviate or tweak — it’s clear that the public has spoken, and Metro Parks’ staff has attempted to listen. During a public outreach effort earlier this year, more than 500 possible names were submitted via an online survey. The majority of responses referenced Herbert or “Dune.”
“This name provides a simple, evocative identifier that highlights the uniqueness of the peninsula remediation and new park features,” according to the staff recommendation. “On a literary level, it honors the name of the book series by Frank Herbert, a famous Tacoma author, which was inspired by the environmental history of Tacoma’s Asarco copper smelter site, directly adjacent to the peninsula.”
Of the trail, the recommendation states succinctly that it “offers that opportunity to further showcase the contribution that Frank Herbert has made to Tacoma.”
Metro Parks Executive Director Shon Sylvia says that, in making its recommendation, the agency’s staff was “looking for a name that honored the unique landscape and topography of the site.”
“The site hosts three different size hills that we’ve been calling ‘sail mounds.’ Let’s face it — they’re odd,” Sylvia said. “But they also provide amazing waterfront viewpoints that would be difficult to create other than in a post-industrial — or post-apocalyptic — landscape.”
Naming the reclaimed slag heap in honor of Herbert, who was born in Tacoma and whose famous writing was heavily influenced by the environmental ravages that he lived with as a boy in a young City of Destiny, is an idea I’ve been pushing nearly since I arrived at The News Tribune. Before that, my predecessor, some guy named Pete Callaghan, spilled plenty of words in favor of it.
Originally, Metro Parks Tacoma Commissioner Erik Hanberg, former Tacoma Landmarks Commissioner Daniel Rahe and PostDefiance.com founder and co-managing editor Katy Evans championed the cause. Without the push they provided, it’s unlikely we would have reached this point.
However, whether this recommendation goes far enough for everyone with a vested interest will be interesting to watch. Just last month, Hanberg told KNKX that he really wanted the new Metro Parks location, which is scheduled to open next year, to be called simply Frank Herbert Park.
“It’s not just ‘Dune.’ It’s much bigger,” Hanberg told KNKX reporter Will James. “It’s about the person.”
Hanberg has a point.Perhaps, through the process that’s ahead, Hanberg and his fellow commissioners will push Metro Parks in that direction. Time will tell.
Still, to this columnist’s ear, the combination of The Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park — which fits with Metro Parks’ desire to denote the newly developed area as part of the existing Point Defiance Park — and The Frank Herbert Trail gets the job done.
Close enough for government work, as they say.
The simple truth is Metro Parks’ staff could have gone in any possible direction with this recommendation, and they managed to avoid botching it.
A name honoring a former parks superintendent could have been suggested, for instance, or one paying homage to an equally deserving historical figure with far less notoriety. Any number of recommendations would have been defensible. In making the recommendation it did, the agency wisely recognized both the will of the people of Tacoma and the excitement naming the park after Herbert will surely generate.
“After the positive response we received (in favor of honoring Herbert), we thought Dune Peninsula was a perfect name bringing those two concepts together,” Sylvia said.
Back in July, I reached out to Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert’s son. Somewhat surprisingly, he told me that to his knowledge, there wasn’t a park in all the world named after his famous father.
“This is peculiar not only because of his great fame, but because he was an avid environmentalist,” Brian Herbert said. “It seems quite appropriate to have that particular park named after him — on the site of a former industrial facility.”
I agreed at the time, and couldn’t agree more today.
Sylvia says the Metro Parks board is expected to officially consider the name in January.
Judging by Thursday’s recommendation, it sure seems like the writing’s on the wall.
Tacoma sits poised to finally, and properly, honor Frank Herbert.
It’s about time.