El Chorro Regional Park needs an upgrade — no doubt about that — and adding cabins, a zip-line, mountain bike trails, a disc golf course and other amenities is a great idea.
But renaming the county park and the adjacent Dairy Creek Golf Course? That’s a horrible suggestion. Please, please forget about it.
Names link us to our history. Arbitrarily changing a perfectly fine place name like “El Chorro” in the hope of luring more visitors is as cynical as it mercenary.
And, please, don’t get us started on the selection of the rather bland and duplicative name “Eagle Rock Park” — which, thank goodness, was not wholly embraced by either the county Parks Commission or the Board of Supervisors.
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But before we go any further, a short history lesson is in order:
According to local historian and Tribune columnist Daniel Krieger, the name of the park dates to 1778, when Franciscan missionary Father Jose Caveller named the area Rancho El Chorro.
“It was named for the ‘gushing stream’ which eventually emptied into Morro Bay,” Krieger told us via mail. “It has had that same name ever since.”
The land was supposed to be returned to Native Americans after secularization, Krieger continued. Rancho El Chorro was eventually granted to the Linares family, which was part Native American, but that didn’t last. The land was granted to new owners by the corrupt Gov. Pio Pico.
“The Hispano-Indian Linares family (was) ‘legally’ robbed of the rancho in 1845,” Krieger wrote. “Should the Hispanic name itself now be removed?”
Not if we can help it.
Before the county sinks any more money into this scheme — it’s already invested $1,800 on focus group meetings to get input on a new name — we advise getting a lot more public input. And we urge anyone who cares about our local history and culture to weigh in.
If, by chance, the county still insists on moving forward with a new name, it should ditch the idea of Eagle Rock.
For one thing, it doesn’t sound very SLO — probably because it’s the name of a well-known L.A. neighborhood a mere three or four hours driving distance from here.
Yes, plenty of places have the same or similar names. Almost every city has a Main Street, for example. But when Central Coast residents with links to Southern California — and there are a lot of us — hear the name “Eagle Rock,” we suspect they will automatically think about that Eagle Rock.
Our first choice is to retain the El Chorro name, but in an effort to nudge the county away from Eagle Rock, we offer some additional suggestions:
▪ Cuesta Park. This makes perfect sense since the park is across the street from Cuesta College. In fact, some people describe El Chorro park as “the one across the street from Cuesta.”
Minor drawback: There already is a Cuesta Park in the county’s system, but this could still work as a name swap. The current Cuesta Park could become El Chorro Park and El Chorro Park would become Cuesta. They could even swap signs, which might save a buck or two.
▪ Sell the naming rights. Money generated could install a zip-line at El Chorro, build a skate park in Nipomo, and there might be enough left to fix up Pirate’s Cove.
▪ Name it after someone who played an important role in the county’s history. Dan Krieger would have some good suggestions, but we suspect he wouldn’t want anything to do with “rebranding” El Chorro Park, judging by this comment: “My first reaction to this move of Anglicization is what Hispanic name will be next: Higuera? San Luis Obispo?” he told us.
Krieger also reminded us that soldiers who served at Camp San Luis Obispo during War War II and the Korean War used to attend Mass at the Rancho El Chorro Shrine of the Centurion (the Hollister Ranch house).
“Most of these men are gone, but the name Rancho El Chorro meant something to them,” Krieger wrote. “Please do not change the very historic name.”
We echo that. People find their way to places — be they parks or campgrounds or entire communities — because of what they have to offer and the word-of-mouth they generate, not because they have a name that’s been carefully vetted by a focus group.
Instead of trying to strip the park of a historic name that’s been around more than 200 years, we strongly urge the county to continue to work on improving El Chorro Regional Park.