A portion of Channel View Park in East Long Beach could be renamed for Ashlee Armond, a 20-year-old woman who died near the park in 2014, after a City Council committee recommended the naming Tuesday afternoon.
The Government Operations and Efficiency Committee voted unanimously to ask the full council to approve the name change for Ashlee, who was found in December 2014 in her submerged vehicle in the Los Cerritos Channel, which runs alongside the park.
A cul-de-sac near Kettering Elementary School where police said they believed the 20-year-old Ashlee drove into the channel after failing to stop is marked with a memorial bench with Ashlee’s name on the back of it.
Attached to the “End” traffic sign and the guardrail indicating the end of the road are three red signs with hibiscus flowers that read, “Forever in our hearts,” with Ashlee’s name and birth and death dates.
Soon, it could have an official sign designating it as “Ashlee’s Park.”
Christine Barry, a community homeless advocate, was behind the push to rename a portion of the park for Ashlee, whose father, Rich Armond, is a Long Beach Police Department quality-of-life officer, and has worked closely with Barry to help those on the streets.
Barry recently had a western redbud tree planted near the bench to add to the memorial for Ashlee.
“It makes little purple flowers, and purple was her favorite,” Barry said.
But having the park named after her will do much more to honor the lasting effect that Ashlee has had on the city after her death, Barry explained. When she died, Rich pivoted from being a patrol officer to doing quality-of-life work in an effort to help more people, she said.
Barry met Rich shortly after her own son died, and they immediately bonded over their shared grief of losing a child. She went on a ride-along with Rich and credits him with launching her into the work that she does now in helping the unhoused get into apartments, into rehab and reconnect with family, along with providing them with basic necessities through donations.
“None of this would have happened if Ashlee had lived, and that’s a horrible thing to think of,” Barry said. “But that’s the reason for the park naming. Lives have been saved. (Rich) lost his daughter, and he turned that into saving other people’s lives.”
Barry named her organization, “Ashlee’s Homeless Fund,” and has used it to raise over $150,000, which she uses to directly get people off the streets by paying for motel rooms, and purchasing flights to get people back to their families or into rehab.
The process to rename a part of the park started last year, when Barry mobilized neighbors through social media to send letters of support to the local council office. In August, then-Councilmember Suzie Price, who represented the area including Channel View Park, asked the council to send the issue to the committee for consideration.
Long Beach does have a set of rules it generally follows when it comes to naming public property or buildings after individuals, and in this case, recognition for Ashlee could qualify based on the lasting impact she’s had on the community through her father’s work.
The City Council will now have to vote on the renaming, but the funding for the sign, which was projected to cost about $2,300, is already in place. Earlier this month, Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who now represents the area, dedicated half that amount from her district funds to help pay for the sign in partnership with the Long Beach Police Officers Association.
Barry said her efforts to get the part of the park named after Ashlee will memorialize not only her and her love for animals and others, but the countless people her father has helped since her death.
“It’s my recognition of the pain that a family goes through when they lose a child,” Barry said. “Nothing can help that. But for the city to recognize that her young life had a purpose and brought change to this city, that’s important.”
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