Eugene residents want plaza named after author Ken Kesey

Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. — A group of Eugene residents wants the city’s public square formally named after Ken Kesey, the author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and who is featured in a sculpture on the plaza.

The area officially known as Broadway Plaza will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Friday. It contains a statue of Kesey reading to his grandchildren, The Register-Guard reported, and many Eugene residents know it by the informal name of “Kesey Square.”

Jerry Diethelm, co-founder of the Friends of Kesey Square and a retired University of Oregon professor, said his group formally requested the name change by email last week. He said he had received no response from Eugene officials as of Thursday.

Any resident can request to change the name of city-owned land or a building under a policy adopted by Eugene in 2010, although the policy says the city council will only approve the change if the property “has a generic name or in recognition of and response to evolving political/social perspectives and sensitivities.”

In the case of Broadway Plaza, Diethelm said the change should be an “easy sell” because its nickname is widely used.

“In this case, we’re saying why doesn’t the city just acknowledge what’s happened and take care of it?” said Diethelm.

Kesey grew up in Springfield, graduated from UO and wrote the well-known novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which was set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. Diethelm said Kesey’s work represents “real creativity and Northwest focus.”

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in particular, “helps us to even consider how we’re dealing with people who are challenged (with mental illness) in our public spaces, too,” said Diethelm.

City Councilor George Brown, who represents an area that includes downtown Eugene, told The Register-Guard that he supports the name change.

“It makes sense, because I don’t know anybody who calls it Broadway Plaza,” he said.

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