Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Zoo will always be Charles’

I married a descendent of the Paddock clan nearly 20 years ago. One of the first outings my husband took me on was to Atascadero Park, the paddle boats and the Charles Paddock Zoo. It was then that I learned that Charles Paddock was his great uncle.

My husband’s grandfather, Jimmy Paddock, was also a prominent figure in county history; he and his wife owned a hotel and store in Pismo Beach. I believe Paddock Avenue is named for him.

Two summers ago, the Bay Area contingent of the family met us at Atascadero Park for family birthday celebrations. We had a lovely picnic under the trees before introducing the youngest members of the family, two rambunctious little boys, to Uncle Charlie’s legacy.

They loved it, especially the puppet show.

There are many stories about Uncle Charles and how well loved he was. He was very resourceful (recycling was unheard of in the 1950s and 1960s). Uncle Charlie made deals and trades with other zoos. He bartered and asked outright for building materials that otherwise would have become landfill. All of this came from the heart and his love for animals. My mother-in-law says she loved watching Charlie frolic with the big cats. Since he raised one from a cub, he and Charlie were buddies (don’t try this at home).

Yes, Uncle Charlie left quite a legacy, more than most of us will leave. I am very saddened by the recent attempt to change the name of the zoo. You say it is to promote tourism? Doesn’t tourism information give the location of the zoo?

This is a great family destination where one can enjoy the park, the lake and the zoo without having to drive to each separately, and we are fortunate to have this jewel in our backyard. That should be what you are promoting — perhaps Atascadero needs to change its marketing strategy. You may have noticed that there has been a global economic downturn for several months now. To blame the name of the zoo for lack of tourism here is ludicrous, to say the least. Tourism is down everywhere. In the Tribune article (Nov. 19), there was not even mention of a compromise, such as Central Coast Paddock Zoo, or Atascadero’s Paddock Zoo.

And a plaque or walkway would be an insult to the man who gave his heart and soul to this wonderful, magical place for children of all ages.

Nothing less than a statue and plaque with a walkway leading to it will do!

I say thank you to Lon Allan for the follow-up Tribune column on Nov. 24 defending the current name and namesake. The Tribune poll showed more votes for leaving the name as is than any other category, so let’s leave well enough alone!

Debra May lives in Arroyo Grande.