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A man takes a walk in the fog at Pleasanton Sports Park in Pleasanton, Calif. on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. (Jim Stevens/Staff)

PLEASANTON -- Two city parks may soon have new names honoring a former mayor and a local service club.

The popular Pleasanton Sports and Recreation Community Park would be the Ken Mercer Sports Park, while the little-known Main Street Green would be Rotary Park, pending approval of the City Council.

"I'm really moved by this, genuinely," Joe Streng, parks and recreation commissioner, said of the Ken Mercer proposal. "It's humbling to be reminded of the people who have come before us and have sat in these seats. I can't think of a better way to honor him."

Mercer was a longtime mayor who died of cancer in January at age 71. He was elected to the City Council in 1976 and served as mayor from 1986 until 1992. He was Pleasanton's first elected mayor; before that, the post rotated among City Council members.

While most people at the May 8 parks and recreation commission meeting favored renaming the sports park to honor Mercer, there were a few dissenters.

"The concerns I heard are that people love Ken Mercer, but he was one of many who helped develop that park," Susan Andrade-Wax, the city's community services director, said. "The other comment I heard was that the current name is so well known."

Parks commissioner Brad Hottle was the lone commission vote against naming the park for Mercer, favoring a memorial plaque at the park instead of renaming it.

"I just think it would have been a bigger honor to have a plaque dedicated to him instead of changing the name," Hottle explained. "He was a hell of a guy, very passionate about this town."


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The entire commission favors the idea of also adding a plaque describing Mercer's many accomplishments.

"It would be an honor to my dad and to our family naming the sports park after him," Chuck Mercer, Ken's son, told the commission. "He really was proud of the sports park. If you were to name anything (after him), that would be it."

In supporting the new park name, the parks commission also voted for a one-time exception to city policy that states a person must be dead for at least five years before a park or building can be named for that person.

Though commissioners wrangled with what the new park name should be, all agreed the current formal name is way too long. They ultimately settled on the succinct Ken Mercer Sports Park, acknowledging most people will still refer to it simply as "the sports park."

There was no opposition to renaming Main Street Green, mainly because most people have no idea where the little park is.

"No one in town right now is aware of Main Street Green," Rotary member Gary Harrington said. "The name change would give meaning."

The tiny half-acre park is nestled at the northeast corner of the Main Street bridge over Arroyo del Valle. Current plans call for the park to be expanded to nearly three-quarters of an acre, making it similar in size to the downtown-area Lions Wayside, Civic and Delucchi parks

Pleasanton's three Rotary clubs requested the name change to honor the 50th anniversary of the founding of the city's first Rotary chapter. Club members have put considerable volunteer time and dollars into the park, adding a bench, brick walkway and lighting. They also cleared the path that leads to the nearby Arroyo del Valle Trail and planted 600 daffodils.