Hundreds pushing to change name of Johnson County creek that some consider offensive

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OLATHE, Kan. — Some consider the name of a creek in Johnson County offensive. It’s known as Negro Creek, and now there’s a push to change the name.

There are over 400 signatures on a change.org petition. Many have said the name is offensive and needs to repurposed to something more meaningful.

Johnson County Commissioner Becky Fast said the county is working with different organizations to change the name of the Negro Creek.

“I didn’t know it existed,” Fast said. “I’m happy someone said something.”

Fast said she heard about the creek’s name earlier this month when someone made a complaint.

“So about two weeks ago I was contacted by some constituents,” Fast said. “After we were contacted by them, we worked together to organize a meeting on Sept. 18.”

But meeting with local organizations and municipalities is just the first step.

“A name change has to be submitted to USGS, and they meet every three months so for it to be submitted is at the end of December,” Fast said. “But you also have to they require community meetings and also an input by the community for an application process.”

Anybody can submit a name change, but Fast said the county wants it to be meaningful.

Historians at the Johnson County Museum are working to find the history behind the creek’s name.

“At this point after doing all of that research we still haven’t come up with an answer,” Johnson County Museum Director Mary McMurray said.

So far one of the possibilities could be a connection to the Underground Railroad.

“So we looked for resources related to that which are admittedly hard to find because a freedom seeker wouldn’t have left any trails,” McMurray said.

In the meantime, the county will focus on the history.

“If it was a major pass for the Underground Railroad, part of it would be not only renaming it but having historical markers,” Fast said.

People who commented on the petition are asking for the creek to be named Freedom Creek.

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