The City of Baytown’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has decided not to recommend naming a park after a Baytown soldier killed in Afghanistan last year.
Board members were asked to discuss naming a future 16-acre park along Blue Heron Parkway in honor Specialist Keith Grace Jr., 26, because of his service.
Grace, a 2006 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, was killed in action Aug. 11.
However, after discussion, the board voted unanimously (6-0) to not support the proposal, said Scott Johnson, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
”The board agreed that this was a tragic event and that Keith Grace Jr. was an outstanding person and soldier,” Johnson said.
“One member noted that he taught Keith in junior high and that he was a very good kid,” added Johnson. “The discussion centered on the fact that this may set precedence and that unfortunately, Keith would not be the last person from Baytown that would lose their life while serving our country.”
The board noted another individual from the Baytown area who was killed in Iraq earlier in the war on terror. U.S. Army Pfc. Wesley R. Riggs, 19, died May 17, 2005, from injuries sustained when a roadside bomb exploded near his patrol outside the northern city of Tikrit.
Beach City and Chambers County erected a memorial to the young man, who grew up in Beach City and Seabrook. Riggs graduated from Barbers Hill ISD.
In Grace’s case, Baytown’s park board agreed the soldier should still be honored in some way and suggested his name be inscribed on a monument at Bicentennial Park’s Veterans Memorial Plaza. That monument lists the names of Baytown service members killed in previous wars.
“The board takes the naming of city parks and facilities very seriously,” Johnson said. “Once a name has been assigned to a park or facility, the name, only in rare circumstances, ever change.”
Baytown City Manager Bob Leiper said that although the parks and recreation board has recommended against naming the future park after Grace, the issue will still come to the Baytown City Council for a final vote.
“Since the naming was requested by city council it will be forwarded to them for consideration, possibly on April 24th,” Leiper said.
The proposal was presented to the parks and recreation board after City
Councilman Bob Hoskins last month asked council to consider renaming Blue Heron Parkway for Grace.
But because Blue Heron Parkway was near completion at the time, the council said it was too late to change names. That project extends West Baker Road and provides another east-west thoroughfare through the city.
In July 2013, councilmen chose the name Blue Heron Parkway after they sought name suggestions and took a vote on the matter.
Grace wasn’t killed until weeks later in August.
As an alternative, Johnson suggested that a park along Blue Heron Parkway be named in honor of Grace.
Right now, the majority of the park is a detention/retention pond, but future plans possibly include a trail, ball fields and fishing.
Several places throughout the city already honor veterans, including two signs that designate Spur 330/Decker Drive as Veterans Memorial Highway. There are also names like Leon Hutto and Sam C. Sjolander, soldiers of World War II, used to identify major thoroughfares.