Hooper residents want park name to memorialize Reagan visit

Jun 19 2012 - 5:55am

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(DAVE LABELLE/Standard-Examiner) Then-President Ronald Reagan, shaking hands among a multitude of well-wishers, makes his way back to his limousine after speaking at the Hooper picnic on Sept. 10, 1982.
(DAVE LABELLE/Standard-Examiner) Then-President Ronald Reagan, shaking hands among a multitude of well-wishers, makes his way back to his limousine after speaking at the Hooper picnic on Sept. 10, 1982. Needless to say, it was the big news in that day’s Standard-Examiner.
(DAVE LABELLE/Standard-Examiner) Then-President Ronald Reagan, shaking hands among a multitude of well-wishers, makes his way back to his limousine after speaking at the Hooper picnic on Sept. 10, 1982.
(DAVE LABELLE/Standard-Examiner) Then-President Ronald Reagan, shaking hands among a multitude of well-wishers, makes his way back to his limousine after speaking at the Hooper picnic on Sept. 10, 1982. Needless to say, it was the big news in that day’s Standard-Examiner.

HOOPER -- Not every small town can say that the leader of the free world gave a speech in its park.

Hooper can, and some residents want to memorialize the historic event by changing the name of the city's oldest park. However, the feeling isn't unanimous.

After much discussion, the city council recently gave tentative approval to changing the name of Hooper Park to Hooper Reagan Park.

President Ronald Reagan visited Utah on Sept. 10, 1982. Among his stops was Hooper, where he delivered a speech in Hooper Park.

Councilman Shawn Beus, who proposed the change, said he was only 8 at the time of Reagan's visit, but he remembers it like it was yesterday -- the motorcade, the T-shirts, buttons and belt buckles with Reagan's likeness and the words "Why Not Hooper?"

Beus has thought about that day often, and now that he is a city councilman, he's asking, "Why Not Hooper Reagan Park?"

Devin Taylor, a member of the Hooper City Veterans Memorial committee, did a feasibility study about renaming the park and received a positive response from residents. Many are too young to remember or even know about the president's visit, but those who do know they lived through a piece of the city's history.

Beus said he finds the visit fascinating and can remember the newspaper headline back then that read "Why Hooper?" That is what prompted the town to respond with "Why Not Hooper?"

Jan Haws has deep roots in Hooper. "My ancestors even lived in the old herd house that was built by Captain Hooper," she said. "The town is named after him and so is the park ... which means if the name of the park is changed to Hooper Reagan Park, then it is named after two people."

Even if the name is changed, she will always call it Hooper Park because that is what it has always been.

Sheri Bingham also has deep roots in Hooper, and her father, Floyd Fowers, was chairman of the Hooper Park Committee at the time of Reagan's visit. She says the park was chosen because it was secured with a chain-link fence around its entire premises.

"People will say that if the name is going to be changed, then it should be a name of someone from Hooper who did something great, or a veteran, or someone who lost their life in a war," Bingham said, "but who would you pick? There have been so many great people in Hooper who have done great things, but there has only been one president and there will probably never be another one to visit our little town."

Councilman Annette Fielding said it is a good idea and it teaches new residents some of the city's history.

During council discussion, Mayor Korry Green said people he has talked to say the name should be left alone, and he thinks it's good to keep it generic.

"You know the saying, 'That's really a good idea ... let's not do it,' " Green said.

Taylor replied, "We have to remember what type of president he was. He wasn't just a leader for our country, he was recognized throughout the world as a peacekeeper. He stood up for our country, he held us accountable while not backing down to our foes."

Councilman Rex Simpson said he remembers there was great participation that day, even though it was raining. He said changing the name is an honorable thing to do, even though he voted "no" because he felt there wasn't enough public input.

"How does the community feel about changing the name?" Simpson said. "The park belongs to the public, not the council."

The council is scheduled to vote on a resolution approving the name change at its Thursday meeting.

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