By JEN APOIAN
The East Campus Neighborhood Association met Wednesday evening to socialize. And to celebrate.
On June 21, Columbia’s City Council voted unanimously to rename Rockhill Park the Clyde Wilson Memorial Park in honor of recently deceased Columbia mayor and long-time East Campus resident H. Clyde Wilson Jr.
“He was especially liked in East Campus,” said Bonnie Bourne, president of the ECNA. “I think that’s the reason it has so much significance to us as a neighborhood.”
“He was such an integral part of the neighborhood,” resident Betsy Peters said.
Since Wilson’s death in March, the ECNA campaigned to rename the park to honor the years of service to Columbia and to East Campus. On April 30 the neighborhood association voted to rename the park. Wilson’s oldest son, Tom, first discussed the issue with the Parks and Recreation department during a May meeting.
“Tom just happened to be here when the department took up the issue. I said to Tom, ‘I think we need to be represented,’ so he went,” Betty Wilson said. “It’s been a process, so we were hoping the process would end successfully. And so we’re very pleased and feel grateful.”
Paul Wallace, Wilson’s neighbor and friend, also reflected on the process. “We wanted it from the beginning. I presented it to the ECNA. Everyone was in support of renaming the park.”
Wilson said, “He’d feel very humble about it. It would’ve been the last thing he would’ve expected.”
Bourne agreed. “I think he’d be humbled. That’s a good word.”
Betty and Clyde Wilson were married 52 years. They both shared a deep connection and investment with the park.
“I think he always felt it was important to set aside land for people to enjoy that was accessible and contiguous to neighborhoods so people didn’t have to go long distances to enjoy some leisure time and enjoy nature. We used to walk down there quite a bit in all seasons. It’s beautiful in the fall, of course, with all the trees the way they are. It’s also beautiful in spring,” she said. “It’s been a place of memories.”
“And the wildflowers,” Wilson added with a smile. “I particularly like the wildflowers.”
The Parks and Recreation website already updated the name. Parks planner Toney Lowery said the sign changes will take place within a few weeks.