Help Name A Park After Dune Author Frank Herbert

By Brent McKnight | Updated

Frank HerbertTacoma, Washington has the unique opportunity to give the city an exponential bump in sci-fi street cred, and you can help. There’s a petition making the rounds to name a new city park—built over the remains of a notorious smelter plant—after genre icon, and native Tacoman, Frank Herbert.

Sci-fi fans know Herbert as the creator of the Dune books, but the Nebula Award-winning author—who was born and raised in the area, and later worked in the area—was also a devoted environmentalist.

The new park is being built on the cleaned up site of an old Asarco smelting plant, and was one of the most toxic sites in the area, churning out sludge, and dumping waste into Puget Sound near Point Defiance. For years, even after the facility was shut down, most residents simply referred to the area as the “slag heap,” and was a key player in Tacoma being one of the most polluted cities in the named.

Herbert witnessed these conditions first hand. One family home especially, had a view of the notorious plant smoke stack, and were near ground zero for the infamous “Aroma of Tacoma.” (You used to roll up your windows when you drove through town.) This directly impacted his ecological leanings.

Herbert’s son, Brian, who continued the Dune franchise in his father’s footsteps, writes, “Dad was a daily witness to conditions in Tacoma, which in the 1950s was known as one of the nation’s most-polluted cities… largely due to a huge smelter whose stack was visible from all over the city, a stack that belched filth into the sky.”

At the moment the new recreation area, which should open to the public in September, is unofficially referred to as Peninsula Park. However, if Park Commissioner Erik Hanberg and a Tacoma landmarks commissioner named Daniel Rahe have anything to say about it, the place will be renamed Frank Herbert Part. (Personally, I think they should call it Arrakis, but that might be a hard sell to the general public.) The two have started the online petition to make it official.

You can’t argue with the logic. Not only would this honor a prominent native son, but since the site is essentially being reborn, emerging out of a horrendous environmental calamity, it also pays homage to his message of conservation that inspired so many.

And it’s a chance to have a public space with an awesomely nerdy moniker. When talking about their park naming history, Melissa McGinnis, who works for Metro Parks in Tacoma, said, “We aren’t known for our creativity.” Frank Herbert Park would definitely be a big step towards changing that reputation.

Here’s a video of the smoke stack coming down in 1993. Go to around the 3:40 mark for the money shot. Given the amount of toxic crap that was all over that place, try not to think of what these people are inhaling after it all comes crashing down.