Petition launched to rename Arizona park to commemorate wartime incarceration

CHANDLER, Ariz. — The city of Chandler, Ariz. drafted plans for “Nozomi Park” in 2005, but has since suspended indefinitely its plans due to budgeting shortfalls. The 70-acre park was meant to honor those of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in the state during World War II.

The park’s name, which means “hope” in Japanese, was inspired by the game of baseball, which was popular among Japanese Americans before, during and after their mass incarceration. The original proposal for the park stated that the game gave the community “a sense of hope, normalcy and community pride,” making life bearable while being unjustly incarcerated in their own country.

The proposal went on to claim 13,000 people of Japanese decent were sent to the Gila River Indian Community south of Chandler during the wartime incarceration.

The “simple gesture” could generate “goodwill” among the Asian American community in Arizona, as well as the Gila River Indian Community, the original proposal said.

The plan for the new park was approved, but the project was put on hold indefinitely as of 2010 due to funding shortages. The Chandler Parks department received an additional funding of $9.1 million over the next 10 years in July of 2011. The funds, however, are reserved to maintain existing parks and on construction of new parks that are under 30 acres in size.

The Arizona Baseball Community — the official adopt-a-park sponsors of West Chandler Park — said the odds of Nozomi Park being constructed in the next decade are “slim to none.” Thus, a new proposal is now being proposed by the City of Chandler to rename the West Chandler Park to Nozomi Park.

The Arizona Baseball Community serves at the official adopt-a-park sponsors to the West Chandler Park and has set up an online petition to rename the West Chandler Park to Nozomi Park. The group said it aims to have the park re-dedicated on Feb. 19, 2012, the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 — which set the wheels in motion to forcibly remove those of Japanese descent from the West Coast during World War II.

The organization cites that the park’s current name “has no historical significance” and is “geographically relevant,” being located on the border between the city and the Gila River Indian Community, as well as the fact that the park already has existing baseball fields. The site, according to the proposal to rename the park, only requires new signage and a historical kiosk to educate visitors.

The petition also states that “Creating a Nozomi Park in Chandler will make our community a tourist destination for visitors from Japan, and people in the U.S. of Japanese ancestry.”

The petition also implied that time is of the essence. “There is also a sense of urgency to act sooner than later, especially if another intention is to honor those who were interned in Arizona,” the proposal stated. “Many of those who were teenagers during WWII are now in their early- to mid-80s. We want to honor them while they are still alive.”

To sign the petition and to read an in-depth proposal for the renaming, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nozomi.

Donations are not required to sign the proposal.

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