Charles Paddock Zoo may get renamed

A preliminary discussion has started on the possible renaming of Atascadero’s zoo in order to better suit the city’s budding regional tourism campaign.

The city Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss the options tonight for the Charles Paddock Zoo. Alternative names include “Atascadero Zoo” or the “Central Coast Zoo” to make it more marketable to communities outside the area.

Commissioner Tom Zirk, who introduced the topic, will lead the discussion. The change is necessary, he said, to best promote the zoo.

“We have a gem here, and it is the core of why the city is a destination,” Zirk said. “We need to make sure that we are promoting it as best as we can.”

Zirk said that the unique cluster of Atascadero Lake Park, the Pavilion, the zoo and the Veterans Memorial should be strategically promoted by the city to increase attendance at each of the attractions.

“We are not selling our biggest assets,” he said, adding that changing the zoo’s name would increase its visibility to tourists planning trips to the area via the Internet.

The Charles Paddock Zoo is named after Chuck Paddock, a beloved park ranger who founded the zoo in 1955.

If the zoo’s name is changed, Paddock would be recognized by a permanent tribute such as a statue, plaque or walkway in the zoo, city officials said.

Community Services Director Brady Cherry noted a study done several years ago suggested that the zoo’s name was an impediment to marketing and promoting it because it does not reference the zoo’s location.

The Central Coast Zoo Society, a nonprofit fundraising entity for the zoo, would support the name change if the city would concurrently develop a marketing and tourism plan, said Ken Brokamp, chief executive officer.

Zirk said that increasing the tourist draw to the zoo would also help alleviate the city’s $700,000 annual financial commitment to it.

“The zoo has been stagnant at 60,000 visitors per year,” Zirk said. “Economically, looking at the cost of the zoo, that number needs to increase to at least 100,000 people to help bear the very heavy load the city is carrying.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.

Meeting Today

The Atascadero Parks and Recreation Commission meets at 7 p.m. today at the Atascadero City Hall Chambers, 6907 El Camino Real in Atascadero.