The Washington State Board on Geographic Names vetoed

State Board denies ‘Riley Cove’ proposal

The Washington State Board on Geographic Names vetoed “Riley Cove” as a proposed official name for the body of water located between Luther Burbank Park and the Roanoke Inn on May 15. A group of residents living on the cove proposed the idea, which was endorsed by the City Council on May 8.

According to Washington State Board on Geographic Names Executive Secretary Caleb Maki, the seven-member board voted mously against the proposal of Riley Cove, named after Island resident and WWII veteran Hu Riley and his pioneering family, because it breached a rule that an honoree must be deceased for at least five years before a site is named after him. Because Riley is still alive, the board could not legitimately approve the Island citizens’ application.

“I was very disappointed to learn of that development,” said Islander Rob MacAulay, who initiated the Riley Cove idea.

When submitting the proposal, MacAulay said that he was aware of the rule on commemorative names. But he went forward with the name because it honored the Riley family, early pioneers on Mercer Island, as well as Hu Riley himself.

“I had been led to believe that the approach of honoring the Riley family, of which Hu is an important part, would be acceptable to the state,” MacAulay said.

Apparently, the seven-member board did not view the application in this same light.

“It seemed from the City Council transcript [endorsement] and the application written that the name was honoring someone who is living,” said Islander Margaret Philbrick, who received an e-mail from Maki regarding the board’s May 15 decision. “Though well deserved, it’s against the board’s policies.”

Because the application was turned down, there will be no public vetting process on the proposal.

Both Philbrick and MacAulay agree that, although the name Riley Cove, good things came of the initiative.

“This has been a positive experience, regardless. It has helped create a little energy around the cove, Hu has gotten some acclaim and, hopefully, we can come up with some alternative ways to honor him,” MacAulay said.

On May 4, more than a dozen North Mercer neighbors gathered at a City Council meeting to support MacAulay’s proposal to name the North Mercer cove after Riley.

The City Council agreed to endorse MacAulay’s application. The proposal was then submitted to the State Board on Geographic Names for review. The board is the only power authorized by state law that can establish official names of geographic features in Washington.

Riley, although disappointed by last week’s news, said he was touched that neighbors wanted to recognize his family to begin with.

“I think it was a very nice gesture. I’m sorry it didn’t go through. I thought it was more for my family. I just happen to still be around,” he said.

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