RACINE — A Racine-based organization is advocating changing the name of Christopher Columbus Causeway to the Root River Causeway, though both the city and county would have to approve the change.
Should the Christopher Columbus Causeway be renamed the Root River Causeway?
The proposal was brought to the city by Coming Together Racine, a grassroots organization with a mission to, “actively challenge and eliminate racism in the greater Racine area.”
But during discussion at the city Public Works and Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, city staff informed the group and the committee that the city only has control over a short portion of the causeway. In order to get the marina and all the businesses using Christopher Columbus Causeway as their address to agree to the change, advocates would have to get the cooperation of the county.
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The Committee voted to send the proposal on to the City Council for approval and asked that a resolution be prepared recommending Racine County follow suit.
Root River Causeway
One of the Coming Together Racine representatives who spoke in front of the committee was Mike Shields, a former City Council member who served when the council voted to rename what was then the 4th Street Causeway to Christopher Columbus Causeway.
Now Shields is advocating changing the name to Root River Causeway to honor the Native Americans who lived in the Racine area and named the Root River.
“We need to tell the truth about history and respect the people who were here,” said Shields. “Christopher Columbus had nothing to do with Racine, Wisconsin.”
A Journal Times article from April 13, 1991, states that the proposal was brought forward by the Racine Columbus Quincentenary Commission, which was comprised of 18 volunteers who organized a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to the Americas.
The group first approached the county since it owns the majority of the causeway and the marina. Once they received county approval they went to the city, which controls 4th Street from Lake Avenue until about 400 feet east of that point.
City Engineer John Rooney pointed out that on the city’s stretch of the road the name change wasn’t official but honorary so changing the name on that stretch is fairly simple.
On the county property, it may be more complicated. According to Racine County Mapbook, the properties owned by the county have Christopher Columbus Causeway as their official address.
Members of the committee expressed support for the group’s proposal.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30 at City Hall, 730 6th St., Room 205.
“We need to tell the truth about history and respect the people who were here ... Christopher Columbus had nothing to do with Racine, Wisconsin.” Mike Shields, former alderman