The name of Balboa Island Park will remain intact after Parks, Beaches and Recreation commissioners unanimously objected to renaming it after Ralph Rodheim, a longtime Newport Beach resident, former harbor commissioner and 2010 Citizen of the Year who died earlier this year.
The 7-0 vote on Tuesday, Aug 1 stemmed from the commission’s effort to avoid creating a “slippery slope” when honoring city residents, said Commission Chair Laird Hayes.
“We felt that there are only so many parks in the City of Newport Beach and once you start naming parks after people you’re going to run out of parks,” Hayes said. “To start naming public property after people, we just didn’t think it was appropriate.”
However, there are special circumstances where naming public land after someone is acceptable, he said.
Bob Henery Park is named after the Newport Beach police officer who was shot and killed at the site in March 1995.
In May, the city renamed Ensign View Park as John Wayne Park, the iconic actor and longtime resident of the city. The council bypassed the commission in that instance.
Hayes suggested there are other ways to honor people in the city with extraordinary accomplishments. He cited a room at the Oasis Senior Center named after former Mayor Evelyn Hart.
The Carroll Beek Community Center at the .28-acre Balboa Island Park, 115 Agate Ave., is named after the matriarch of the family that began ferry service between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula.
Commissioner Roy Englebrecht said another alternative could is the commissioning of a statue or bust. Adorning benches and trees with the name of someone is a suitable choice, Hayes said.
Councilman Jeff Herdman, who represents District 5 where the park is located, pushed for the renaming of the park earlier this year.
Herdman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rodheim, owner of Balboa Boat Rentals, was a fixture on the island, renting small boats to tourists at Newport Harbor for years. As a member of the Harbor Commission from its inception, Rodheim was instrumental in mooring realignment, working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department harbormaster and the Rhine Channel dinghy dock.
The matter could be put in front of the city council if a council member asks that it be discussed, said Laura Detweiler, director of recreation and senior services for the city.