MOAB — Officials have rebuffed a new push to change the name of a Utah canyon that's offensive to some but a point of historical pride for the state's largest NAACP chapter.
The Grand County Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to keep the name Negro Bill Canyon, which was dubbed for a black cowboy whose cattle grazed there in the 1870s, Councilwoman Mary McGann said.
Amid renewed national scrutiny of the Confederate flag, she had pushed to change the name that she says is offensive and outdated.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake City chapter of the NAACP, opposed the effort. She says the name isn't offensive and is instead a point of pride because it makes clear the canyon is named for a black historical figure.
McGann says the council members who wanted to keep the name cited the support of the Salt Lake NAACP.
Williams didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on the vote.
Moab's canyon is not the only American landmark with a similar name. As of 2012, more than 700 places in the U.S. had "negro" in the name, according to an analysis of government records.
Grand County Councilman Lynn Jackson voted to keep the name that he says is supported by longtime residents who feel their history slipping away.
"It's part of the history of Moab — good, bad, unsavory, whatever," he said.
The canyon is a popular hiking spot in Moab, a town that attracts tourists from all over the world to its unique red-rock landscapes in nearby national parks.
The canyon features one of the longest natural arches in the U.S., but its name makes tourists and locals uncomfortable, McGann said.
She's planning to bring up a name change again next year or the year after.
"We lost this battle, but we're going to succeed. It's going to happen," she said.
The canyon was named for cowboy William Granstaff. McGann would like to see it bear his last name with the spelling corrected to Grandstaff based on new research.
It's not the first time someone had tried to change the name. Moab resident Louis Williams led a similar unsuccessful effort in 2013.
He said he was disappointed in the latest decision but encouraged by the several people who spoke in favor of a change, including one high school student.