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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in support of the National Park Service’s recommendation that Coon Lake and Coon Creek in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area be renamed. The recommendation is that the names be changed to Howard Lake and Howard Creek, in honor of an African American prospector who held several mining claims near the lake in the 1890s. Senator Murray’s office spoke to several agencies of the Department of the Interior after hearing complaints about the name from concerned citizens in Washington state.

 

“I strongly support the NPS’s recommendation that Coon Lake and Coon Creek be renamed Howard Lake and Howard Creek – a simple fix that not only will faithfully remember early prospector Wilson Howard, but will recognize that the current name is outdated,” Senator Murray wrote in the letter. “The time is right to correct this historical wrong.”

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

October 23, 2015

 

Dear Mr. Yost:

 

I write in support of the National Park Service’s (NPS) recommendation to change the names of a lake and a creek located in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area in my home state of Washington from Coon Lake and Coon Creek to Howard Lake and Howard Creek. It is clear to me that the current names are likely referring to a racial slur, and I encourage the U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) to revisit its 2009 decision to reject the renaming of these bodies of water.

 

As you may know, Wilson Howard was an African American prospector who, according to the Washington State Bureau of Mines, held several mining claims located in close proximity to these two bodies of water. As a cabin owner on the lake in the early 1890s, Howard has a direct and historically significant contribution to the area. In 2007 and 2008 the Washington State Board on Geographic Names voted unanimously to change the name of these two bodies of water to Howard Lake and Howard Creek, thereby removing the possibility that the former name could represent a racial slur.

 

Maps produced by Washington state no longer display the offensive name for these two bodies of water, but the federal government has thus far failed to follow in its footsteps when the BGN declined to change the name following a 2009 petition. Due to their location in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, the NPS’s official maps still retain the unsightly names, which creates confusion and possible offense among visitors to the recreation area. Yet under your leadership and the leadership of Secretary Jewell, the BGN has worked to promptly correct a number of egregious and historically inaccurate geographic names. It is clear to me that renaming these two bodies of water would be an important step in helping right this historic wrong, while paying tribute to the history of the Lake Chelan area.

 

I strongly support the NPS’s recommendation that Coon Lake and Coon Creek be renamed Howard Lake and Howard Creek – a simple fix that not only will faithfully remember early prospector Wilson Howard, but will recognize that the current name is outdated. The time is right to correct this historical wrong. Thank you for your consideration of my request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Patty Murray

United States Senator