Reexamining California State Parks Past – Black Miners Bar
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, including the previously named Negro Bar Boat Launch
On Friday, June 17, 2022, the California State Parks Commission temporarily renamed Negro Bar Day Use Area in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area to Black Miners Bar Day Use Area. The name change is temporary because the Commission charged California State Parks to work with the California African American Museum to research the area more diligently to ensure there is not a better name for the historic area. The California State Parks Commission will finalize the name next year.
According to the California State Parks website, “the historical use of the name appears in reference to Black miners during the gold rush, including from an 1850 newspaper article noting Black miners finding gold at this location in 1848.” Recent petitions and outreach from the public warranted reconsideration of the historic name to ensure the Day Use Area remains a safe and welcome space for all. For more information on the history of the Day Use Area and the name change process, check out the California State Parks website.
On June 16, 2022, California State Parks Foundation staff and Birt Johnson, California State Parks Foundation’s Board Chair, toured the Day Use Area with members of the California Parks and Recreation Commission to learn about its rich history and the name change process from park staff.
Director of Parks and Recreation, Armando Quintero, and members of the California Parks and Recreation Commission
During the California State Parks Commission meeting to discuss the name change, Birt Johnson made the following comments:
"Our state parks are often recognized by the public first for their scenic beauty. The tours yesterday of Sutter’s Fort and Negro Bar Day Use Area highlighted two equally important aspects; honoring the cultural and historic importance our parks represent.
The mission of California State Parks Foundation is twofold: first, to “protect and preserve the California state park system” and secondly, “for the benefit of all.”
While I have followed the renaming process. Yesterday, was my first visit to this historic area.
The initiative and effort to explore changing the name of any long-standing public facility requires sensitivity and fairness. I appreciated the upfront commitment to listening and learning sessions, and the genuine desire to understand the “why”, demonstrated by California State Parks staff.
Protecting and preserving typically focuses on the physical aspects. At the Day Use Area, it is the name that has caused concern and the need for voices to be heard. I believe “for the benefit of all” begins with ensuring that park visitors feel “welcomed” and have a sense of belonging.
People of color are familiar with public signage from the 1960’s and earlier, which was legal, but not welcoming.
I appreciate California State Parks Director Quintero, and his staff for their sincere approach to listening and valuing the voices and perspectives of all concerned. Also, their willingness to acknowledge this may be a continuing journey.
California State Parks Foundation supports California State Parks direction with their Reexaming Our Past initiative. At the end of the day this is about benefitting all Californians. Thank you!"
This name change is just one aspect of California State Parks larger Reexamining our Past Initiative. For more information on other state parks involved in the initiative, check out this website. California State Parks Foundation will continue to follow this effort and others to reexamine the history and interpretation of our state parks. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter at @calparks.