Misunderstanding at Naperville Park Board meeting over Daughters of the American Revolution plaque

Concept image of NSDAR America250 plaque.
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Over a dozen Fort Payne Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) members, veterans, and residents showed up at the Naperville Park District Board meeting to voice their support of an America250 plaque installation.

The members of NSDAR had received information that led them to believe that several Park Board Commissioners opposed the idea, and a vote had already been taken at the Feb. 8. Naperville Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. 

What is the proposed plaque?

Fort Payne Chapter, NSDAR offered to donate an America250 plaque to the park district, to honor the 250th anniversary of the United States and the patriots who fought for independence. 

The group proposed the plaque be placed at Burlington Square Park, Veterans Park, or Central Park by the Veterans’ Valor statue.

What is the NSDAR?

NSDAR is a women’s service organization dedicated to preserving the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American independence. It’s one of the largest genealogical societies in the US.

The main criterion for membership is a linkage through genealogical research back to Revolutionary War ancestors. The Fort Payne chapter was established in Naperville in 1928.

Community members speak in support of the plaque

Brad Wilson, Executive Director of the Naperville Park District, clarified details before opening the floor for public comment last Thursday.

“Contrary to information shared in the community, there has not been a vote by the Naperville Park District Board on the acceptance or placement of the plaque, and all board members have not had an opportunity to discuss the proposed America250 marker. Discussions have only occurred within the Parks and Recreation Committee,” said Wilson.

All 15 speakers at last Thursday’s park board meeting shared their personal connections not only to NSDAR but to Naperville.

“My only time away from Naperville is when I was either deployed or on active orders. So there’s a reason I came back to this community and that’s the patriotism and the support that I’ve always received,” said Jennifer Slown, Marine Corps reservist. “I’m just concerned with where we go from here, and that is that we move forward with this plaque.”

Naperville Park Board speaks on the concerns

Board members clarified their initial responses from the parks and recreation meeting to the supporters. Commissioner Rhonda Ansier said not enough information was known at the time and didn’t see how it related to Naperville. 

“I [didn’t] see how this connects other than it’s [an] America’s birthday plaque, and we didn’t see how that fit into anything. So that is the only reason I was initially hesitant about it,” said Ansier.

Commissioner Leslie Ruffing echoed the thoughts of Ansier, though Commissioner Rich Janor said he believes the initial hesitation comes from different reasons.

“I think the fact that there has been any opposition on this board to accepting the donation is simply a sign of the times. In recent years, cancel culture has prevailed across our country, especially in big cities, and it has unfortunately become fashionable in certain circles to remove statues of historical figures, disrespect our national anthem, put a new spin on how history is taught in schools and cancel certain periods of our history altogether,” said Janor.

He urged commissioners to accept the donation.

“To my colleagues on the board who have already gone on record and opposed acceptance of the America250 plaque at the Feb. 8. parks and recreation committee meeting, there’s absolutely no shame in changing your mind,” said Janor.

Naperville Park Board addresses misinformation

While there was a misunderstanding of the parks and recreation meeting, some commissioners said there was also misinformation spread around. Commissioner Alison Thompson said she was sent emails by supporters claiming she was against the plaque.

“I was very surprised to learn that I had already voted in opposition to this matter, no clue,” said Thompson. “I also learned that I had political leanings that were clouding my judgment when it came to this group and this plaque. I certainly wasn’t a part of any discussion leading up to this, nor did I relay my feelings on the matter.”

Commissioner John Risvold said he was also sent misinformation about the vote taking place. He addressed his concerns regarding the misinformation in the emails.

“But I do caution you where you get your information from because it’s very obvious you’re getting it from bad sources that want to stir up controversy for no reason other than publicity or a sound bite or some 15 minutes of fame and we’ve seen that at City Council. This is not the place for it,” said Risvold.

Next steps for the plaque

The commissioners thanked the 15 speakers for sharing their thoughts at the meeting.

After discussing the donation, all commissioners agreed to develop an agreement on the plaque with the Fort Payne Chapter, NSDAR. Once finalized, the agreement will be brought back to the park board for approval.

The board also plans to discuss a plaque policy to prevent any future misunderstandings.

Photo courtesy: NSDAR

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