ENCINITAS — A proposal to name a dog park in honor of the late Encinitas Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan is moving closer to fruition.
The Encinitas Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday, recommending the City Council name the two-acre area within the Encinitas Community Park after Houlihan, who died in 2011 after a five-year bout with cancer.
The City Council is expected to take up the proposal at a meeting next month. The 44-acre community park is expected to open in the fall.
Committee members of the Encinitas Garden Festival & Tour, the horticultural-appreciation event that Houlihan spearheaded, proposed the posthumous honor for the three-term councilwoman, who was first elected in 2000.
Houlihan was widely known as an animal lover and staunch animal rights advocate.
“In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, Maggie was the most popular politician in the history of Encinitas,” said Sanford Shapiro, the parks and recreation commissioner and garden festival committee member who is making the proposal. “This is a way for the city to honor her permanently.”
Houlihan supporters first approached the city with the naming concept in August, when they pledged to donate $7,500 in park enhancements in exchange for the naming rights.
The council tabled the discussion to allow the new parks and recreation administration to review the city’s park-naming policy, which currently prohibits parks to be named after people unless the council or commission deems there are special circumstances warranting the action.
Houlihan’s history of animal-rights advocacy was well documented.
In 2004, she used the proceeds of a lawsuit settlement to build an enclosure for rescued turtles. That same year, when running a triathlon in Encinitas’ sister city of Hondo, Japan, she stopped to help a feral kitten in distress.
Friends and supporters of Houlihan have paid homage to the late councilwoman with a number of tributes, one of which stirred up controversy.
Two years ago, the city initially blocked a request by the Arts Alive program to erect 100 banners throughout the city that included Houlihan’s image. The city later reversed course after Houlihan’s widower threatened to sue, arguing the denial was a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights.