About the Colony

Sculpture would honor zoo namesake

This Thursday night, the Atascadero Parks and Recreation Commission will get its first look at another piece of public art.

A bronze bust of Chuck Paddock is proposed for the new entrance to the zoo that bears his name. The bronze of Chuck holding a small possum will be sculpted by Atascadero artist Mark Greenaway. Greenaway is the artist who did the larger-than-life sculpture that anchors the Veterans Memorial at the Lake Park.

The bronze of Chuck Paddock is long overdue. This move to honor Chuck comes not long after a failed attempt by some to change the name of the zoo.

City Councilman Bob Kelley is spearheading the efforts to make the bronze a reality. At the moment he is a one-man fundraising committee to cover the expense of creating the bronze and its concrete base.Greenaway’s concept for the bronze will be on the agenda Thursday for a ruling by the advisory body.

The drawing Kelley showed me has Paddock holding the possum in a way that children can walk up to the statue and actually rub the nose of the critter for a photo opportunity.

For years, parents have been taking pictures of their children getting a drink from the lion’s head drinking faucet donated by the Atascadero Jaycees over four decades ago. This bronze of the zoo’s founder will quickly become another icon for the little zoo.

Shortly after Paddock, a ranger with the SLO County Parks Department, began collecting and keeping wild animals in abandoned dog kennels out by the lake, the Children’s Zoo Friendship Society was formed in 1962.

By 1964, African lions Nathan and Valley Joe arrived at the zoo to celebrate its official grand opening.The county took a more formal ownership of the zoo that was then called Atascadero Children’s Zoo in 1967.

It wasn’t until 1977 that the Board of Supervisors changed the name to the Charles Paddock Zoo. The zoo was given to the new city of Atascadero shortly after voters approved cityhood in the summer of 1979.

A former journalist and long-time friend, Brad Humphrey, who as a teenager worked with Paddock during summer vacations and befriended him as an adult, said of Chuck, “He was my friend. That’s how I remember him the best. I want Atascadero residents to always remember why the zoo in Atascadero is named after him.” Humphrey added that, “I’m not sure Chuck was afraid of anything — except being forgotten.”

If Bob Kelley gets his way and approval of the concept from the parks and recreation commission Thursday night at 7 in City Council Chambers, then Chuck Paddock’s place in Atascadero history will not be easily forgotten.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears on the Local page every Tuesday. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.