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By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

After weeks of protests and thousands of petition signatures, the board of directors at Monk Botanical Gardens on Wednesday reversed its decision to rename the organization.

In a statement Wednesday, the board also issued an apology for the decision.

Renaming Monk Botanical Gardens “Wausau Botanic Gardens” sparked enormous outcry from the community, many of whom felt the change was disrespectful to the vision of Robert W. Monk III, who donated the land and launched the initial effort. In addition to a petition, signs cropped up throughout the Wausau area that declared support for keeping the Monk name, while a Facebook page dedicated to the issue attracted more than 2,000 members.

The news comes one week after a news release from Executive Director Darcie Howard in which the board acknowledged the controversy, but did not change course.

Now, the board appears to have heard the voices of the community and will return to using Monk Botanical Gardens as the name and logo of the organization.

“This measure reflects our commitment to honoring Robert W. Monk III’s legacy while we work diligently to incorporate ‘Robert W. Monk’ more thoughtfully into the name and identity of the organization,” Wednesday’s statement reads.

The official release goes on to call the change a mistake and says the board regrets “any confusion or disappointment caused by this oversight.”

Several members of the Monk family reached out to Wausau Pilot after the initial announcement to express their extreme disappointment. The issue prompted dozens of letters to the editor and hundreds of comments on social media, the vast majority of which questioned the board’s decision and the direction of the updated 2020 Master Plan. Some are calling for Howard’s ouster and say the board has many questions to answer, even if the change is reversed.

Critics are welcoming the news, but say more must be done to restore the public’s faith in the organization.

“This is a step in the right direction and hopefully opens the door to future dialogue and acknowledgement of the intent of the gardens,” wrote Christina Giese. “The next step I’d like to see is the repair of the footbridge to the Monks resting place.”

And for some, concerns still remain. Darcey Westcott, who spent years volunteering for the Gardens, had this to say.

“Although we’re grateful for this acknowledgment and step forward, I really don’t like the pre qualification sentence in the press release of: “During this process, we will return to using …” What process are they referring to? The trust between their statements and the community is still very broken.”

The organization is asking for patience and understanding as they “continue to navigate through this process and bring to life the visions that inspire us all.”