In a time when people are questioning the names behind public spaces, the city of Florence has announced the name for its newest park. Built in 2019, the park oversees scenic views of the Siuslaw River and bridge, as well as sand dunes.
It’s the Exploding Whale Memorial Park thanks to democracy.
Last year, Florence officials asked residents to help name the park, located along Rhododendron Drive. The city received 124 suggestions and was narrowed down to nine options, according to a press release from the city.
Out of 856 votes, 439 went to Exploding Whale Memorial Park. Eugene Weekly asked the city for the results, and no other name came close: In third place was Siuslaw River View Park and second place was River’s Edge Park.
Of course, the tale of the whale is something Oregon — and the world — will never forget. But if you need a refresher, here you go.
In 1970, KATU reporter Paul Linnman was in Florence to file a pun-heavy report on a dead whale that needed to be disposed of. Oregon’s highway division, then in charge of beaches, planted about a half-ton of dynamite under the whale. It was theorized this would rid the beach of the carcass.
But what happened was an Old Testament-like shower of whale blubber on spectators and their cars.
As a part of the park’s naming, the city’s mascot, Flo the Whale, came out to celebrate its species’ best-known Oregon accomplishment. The Flo mascot was created by a community member a few years ago in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the state’s attempt to dispose of a giant sea mammal by dynamite, according to Megan Messmer, a city spokesperson. Also in honor of the anniversary, KATU rebroadcast the footage (see below).
The Exploding Whale Memorial Park was funded by two grants: The Land Water Conservation Fund awarded $43,762 and Oregon State Park’s Local Government Grant Program gave $87,525. The park has a shelter with picnic tables, as well as an open grassy area. There is also an access point for people to take their canoe or kayak to the river, according to the city.
The city opened the park May 14, 2019, with the name Siuslaw River Beach Access Park.