If you’ve ever wondered why some longtime Tucsonans persist in referring to Reid Park as Randolph Park, well, there’s a story behind that.
The whole place was once called Randolph Park in honor of Epes Randolph, a Tucson pioneer and railroad executive.
But it was Gene C. Reid, former Tucson Parks and Recreation Department director, who turned the park into the Midtown oasis it is today.
And so the City Council decided to change the name to Reid Park in the 1970s.
But some people didn’t like that and feared that changing the name would set a bad precedent. A compromise was sorely needed, and that’s what happened in August 1978.
Here’s how the Arizona Daily Star reported the story at the time:
“The man who helped bring the railroad to town kept the golf course, the former senator kept the ball field and the guy who built the lake, the park and the zoo kept all three.
“In semi-diplomatic fashion yesterday, the City Council solved the great Randolph Park debate by naming everything west of Randolph Way for retired Parks and Recreation Director Gene Reid.”
That included the lake, which already was named for Reid, and the zoo. Randolph’s name remained on the two golf courses that Reid developed there.
The park’s Hi Corbett Field remained named for Hiram Stevens Corbett, the former state senator and lumber company owner credited with bringing spring-training baseball to Tucson.
Today the vast area that people associate with the park includes swimming pools, a basketball court, scores of leisure classes and much more.
Reid Park isn’t the biggest park in the Old Pueblo, and it’s certainly not the most scenic or serene. But for decades now, this Midtown oasis is the closest thing we've had to a Central Park.
Read more about the park in Thursday's Caliente section of the Arizona Daily Star.