Plan to rename park for Iszabella Morgan hits snag‘Northridge’ name, thought to be generic, has ties to North family — former owners of land.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
Mitchell’s Northridge Park appeared to be a good candidate to memorialize Iszabella “Bella” Morgan, especially since the existing name was apparently generic in nature and she reportedly enjoyed playing at the park.
As it turns out, the park’s name may have historical ties to the former owners of the land.
William M. and Melissa North owned a farm and nearly 72 acres where the park along 11th Avenue near Mitchell High School is now located. In 1924, the North family moved to Pipestone, Minn., but kept the land. In July 1962, the Norths sold the land for $33,000 to developer and insurance salesman Roger Baldwin, who subdivided it into Northridge Park and Northridge Subdivision.
Mitchell resident Bernie Schmucker brought the land’s history to the attention of The Daily Republic on Wednesday, following the Mitchell City Council’s advancement of a proposal Monday to rename the park in honor of Morgan and a Tuesday Daily Republic editorial in support of the renaming.
“I knew the people who owned it, and I knew that it was more than just a direction. ‘North’ meant something,” said Schmucker, who founded the SPN & Associates civil engineering firm with Richard Shaffer in 1961. “Baldwin had decided that the development should be named after the farm.”
The Mitchell City Council voted Monday night to send the renaming idea to the city’s Park and Recreation Board before it comes back to the council for a final decision.
Morgan, 9, died March 24 in a traffic crash at the corner of First Avenue and Duff Street in Mitchell. The man charged with causing the crash was allegedly drunk and fleeing from police.
An idea to rename Duff Street in Morgan’s honor has reportedly been floated, but only the park renaming idea has officially made it to the council.
Councilman Ken Tracy said Wednesday he still stands behind naming the park after Morgan.
“I still think that renaming the park is a good idea; however, I would like to refer it to the park board and get their blessing,” Tracy said.
A former county commissioner, Schmucker said a lot of the place names in the area have historical value.
“I can’t tell you the history of Duff [Street], but I’m sure there’s some there. In these communities, there’s history everywhere,” Schmucker said.
Councilman Mel Olson said the origin of the Northridge name makes little difference to him, and he still wants to name the park after Morgan.
“The fact that this is named after people who sold the land doesn’t do anything for me,” Olson said. “But it could make a difference to the park board.”
Tracy, who is among six candidates running for mayor, said he doesn’t want to offend anyone by renaming the park.
“I don’t know if there are still people around who have connections to the park and would like to keep it as Northridge, and if there are, we would have to take that into consideration,” Tracy said.
Olson said if the park board decides to leave the park named as it is, the city should look to honor Morgan in another way, possibly with a commemorative plaque or by raising money for a statue at the park.
Whatever happens, it appears the idea to rename Northridge Park may come with more consideration than some thought.
“I thought Northridge would be a safer option, but it appears that’s not the case,” Tracy said.