The city of Berkley is asking residents to submit new names for Oxford/Merchants Park in a contest that will run through April 23.

The city of Berkley is asking residents to submit new names for Oxford/Merchants Park in a contest that will run through April 23.

File photo by Mike Koury

Berkley invites community to rename Oxford/Merchants Park

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 10, 2021


BERKLEY — The city of Berkley is holding a contest for a new name for Oxford/Merchants Park.

The upgrades at Oxford/Merchants Park will be complete within the next several months. With that in mind, the city decided to rename the park with the community’s help in time for the grand opening.

Parks and Recreation Director Theresa McArleton said the city had discussions about what Oxford/Merchants Park would be called for a long time and what route the city would use to select a name. That included having City Council choose, and taking suggestions from city staff or the recreation advisory board.

“It came down to the fact that our parks are community parks and they’re for people in the community and people outside the community too,” she said. “We really wanted to make this something that felt like it was for everyone in Berkley.”

The naming contest was something, McArleton said, that came up organically from those discussions, and the city felt it had an opportunity to provide a name for the park with the help of the people of Berkley by giving everyone a chance to use their creativity and see what they came up with.

“It seems very fitting, given that parks are about bringing people and communities together; there’s nothing more valuable than people and, especially after the year we’ve all had, this felt very celebratory and also community focused,” she said.

The park’s improvements have been in the works for seven years. Berkley purchased the Oxford Park property from the school district in 2014. It would merge with the nearby Merchants Park to form the park that exists today.

Jeffrey Tong, of the Berkley Historical Museum, stated that the name “Merchants Park” most likely came from a baseball team that adults in the city played on called the Berkley Merchants.

“It was sponsored by the local businesspeople,” he said. “There was a Clawson Merchants team back in the 1930s. There was a Ferndale Merchants team. So all these cities had a team called the Merchants and they were always sponsored by the local merchants.”

The “Oxford” name in the park originally was for the Oxford school that used to stand on the property, but it came from the street that borders the park. Tong noted that a whole section of streets in Berkley — Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia  — were named after famous colleges and universities.

When asked if the city had any trepidation renaming the park, McArleton said those conversations were had, but “it was something that we took consensus on from a number of groups and people before moving forward. … This didn’t just come kind of overnight or from one person or group.”

Residents, community members and local businesses will have until April 23 to submit a name for the contest. After the deadline passes, a committee made up of members from the recreation advisory board, City Council, city staff, recreation staff and residents will narrow the list of submitted names to five.

“Those five names among the group will be submitted to City Council, and City Council will make the final decision prior to the grand opening of the park,” McArleton said. “The park will have a soft opening once completed in early May, but there’ll be a larger opening sometime in early June

Construction on the land began last fall and continued into the spring. Those upgrades include a splash pad, new playground equipment, walkways and restrooms.

To learn more about the contest and how to submit a name, visit