After a seven-month debate over what to rename Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, the SF Rec and Parks Commission on Thursday bestowed the new name Blue Heron Lake.
District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar started making noise last spring about renaming Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake, because its namesake, Gold Rush-era state Assembly Speaker William W. Stow, had a notorious history of antisemitism. The full SF Board of Supervisors agreed, and approved a name change in mid-May. That set off seven months of pondering what the new name would be, with the SF Rec and Parks Commission having the final call.
Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park has been renamed.https://t.co/OXMH26LuIQ— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) January 18, 2024
And on Thursday, they made that call. The Chronicle reports SF Rec and Parks Commission decided the new name would be Blue Heron Lake.
Six pairs of great blue herons are now sitting on their nests and incubating eggs in their island tree at Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake. Soon, these eggs will begin to hatch and a cacophony of squawking will be heard far and wide.https://t.co/ZboAcJtC0R— Richmond Sunset News (@RichmondSunset) April 15, 2021
If you’re not familiar, the Blue Herons are actually Great Blue Herons, and they’ve been nesting at the lake since at least 1993. According to a Richmond Review profile from last spring (which has some awesome wildlife photos), the herons nest in two trees at the lake; one near the Stow Lake Boathouse, and the other near the lake’s waterfall.
“Herons are charismatic birds; their courtship rituals are elaborate and beautiful,” Richmond Review said. “The chicks closely resemble little dinosaurs with their punk mohawks.”
Stow Lake Boathouse • San Francisco, California pic.twitter.com/xZCU78YxyA— Julian (@heyitsmejulianm) September 25, 2016
Per the Chronicle, “The rename will also affect the boathouse at the lake and the road encircling it.” That refers to the Stow Lake Boathouse and the street Stow Lake Drive.
As for William Stow, history has not looked back kindly on some of his statements on the state Assembly floor. “I have no sympathy with the Jews and would it were in my power to enforce a regulation that would eliminate them from not only our county but from the entire state,” Stow reportedly once said in a speech. “I am for a Jew tax that is so high that [Jews] would not be able to operate any more shops. They are a class of people here only to make money and who leave the country as soon as they make money.”
Ironically, in 1889 Stow was appointed to the San Francisco Park Commission, now called the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, which is the very body that stripped his name off the lake today.
Image: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons