No 'Perugia Park' in Seattle, for now
The name for a new Seattle park has been postponed because it's the name of the Italian city where West Seattle's Amanda Knox was convicted last month of murdering her British roommate.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Just a day after the city of Seattle announced a new park would be named "Perugia," it has backpedaled because Perugia is the Italian city where West Seattle's Amanda Knox was convicted of murdering her British roommate.
Earlier this month, an Italian jury convicted Knox, 22, of the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in a cottage the two shared in Perugia. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
"Due to community concerns about the naming of Perugia Park on the heels of the recent verdict in the criminal case involving Seattle resident Amanda Knox, we will temporarily shelve the naming process for this park," said Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher. "We will take up the process again in the spring."
Perugia is a Seattle sister city.
Mike James, president of the Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association, said he thought the park's name wasn't going to be announced until spring and was surprised it was announced this week.
"We can argue these are two separate issues and the trial shouldn't define Perugia," said James. "That argument might be rational, but there is a lot of reaction against the verdict, and it's hard to separate it from the politics naming the park. I understand that."
He said a jury decision shouldn't define a city, but that's not what happened. "I understand the emotion behind it," said James. "I understand my own feelings that the evidence wasn't there for the guilty verdict."
The new park is on Capitol Hill at the corner of East John Street and Summit Avenue East.
The name was chosen by a park-naming committee, composed of members of the parks board, the Seattle City Council and parks staff.
Joelle Hammerstad, spokeswoman for the Seattle Parks Department, said the naming process has gone on for the park for about a year and the department was working with the Perugia sister city organization to find a park to bear its name.
The nomination from the Perugia group came in last month, she said, and was one of three dozen nominations submitted, but the only one from a sister-city organization.
"Our hope was this would begin a healing, a mending of fences," said Hammerstad. "A new beginning of a new relationship with that city. But obviously it was too fresh and too sensitive for folks."
The naming of the park and the Knox case are completely unrelated, she said, but "it seems as though there's a sensitivity about the city of Perugia in the community and we don't want to fan any flames. We'll just put it on hold and revisit the issue later."
The land for the now-unnamed park was acquired in 2007 with money from the 2000 Pro Parks levy and a matching King County grant. The land on the western slope of Capitol Hill will be developed into a neighborhood park and P-Patch, with construction expected to begin in the spring.
Six other city parks bear the name of Seattle's sister cities. Seattle has sister-city relationships with 21 cities. Perugia was named a sister city in 1991.
The naming committee unanimously recommended the new park be named Perugia, which is the capital of Umbria, Italy. Perugia has a Seattle sister-city park named Orca Park, which features a sculpture created by Seattle artist Marvin Oliver.
Seattle's first sister city was Kobe, Japan, established in 1957. Today one park, Kobe Terrace, is named after that city. It is located on the northeast side of the International District on Sixth Avenue South.
In the application, the Perugia sister city group wrote: "This request reflects the longterm and passionate common bond between our two cities. Seattle would be proud to have this site join the many other Seattle Parks named in honor of Seattle's committed Sister City relationships.'
The application even talks about student exchanges, such as the one Knox was on.
"The sympathy of the moment has to be with [Knox's] family that have been through a terrible time," said James. "I'm disappointed we can't separate a city from a verdict and a long-standing relationship from a verdict."
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this story, originally published Dec. 31, was removed Dec. 31. A list of other name possibilities provided by the Seattle Parks Department was not for the park located at East John Street and Summit Avenue East. A corrected list has been published and is linked above.
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