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Posted on: January 18, 2024

Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake Renamed Blue Heron Lake

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA  San Francisco Recreation and Park Commissioners today approved changing the name of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park to Blue Heron Lake. 

William W. Stow, the lake’s original namesake, was a State Assembly Member between 1854 and 1857 and served on the City’s park commission in the 1890s. He was also an antisemite who openly wished to rid California of its Jewish population, and attempted to tax Jews in order to discourage them from opening businesses. 

San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar spearheaded the community effort to rename the lake starting last year, conducting outreach and polling residents on their preferred new name.  Among the suggestions: names honoring civil rights leaders, writers, politicians, philanthropists, early park employees, local indigenous communities and native wildlife.  

Recreation and Park commissioners, who had the final say on the official name, voted 4 to 3 to approve Blue Heron Lake, the public’s most-suggested name. Blue Herons nest on Stow Lake’s Strawberry Hill in April and May, and are a symbol of resilience, progress and evolution for the indigenous community. 

Commissioners also replaced the names of Stow Lake Drive and Stow Lake Boathouse with Blue Heron Lake Drive and Blue Heron Lake Boathouse. The new names took effect immediately. 

"I am so grateful that the Recreation and Park Commission took this important step to strike Stow's hateful legacy from the lake and replace it with Blue Heron Lake," said Supervisor Melgar, who represents District 7 including the lake. "Antisemitism and hate have no place in our City nor in Golden Gate Park, and now we are one step closer to rectifying the pain that Assemblymember Stow caused to the Jewish and other communities across California. The Blue Heron, a creature that has made its home at the lake and symbolizes patience, resilience and good fortune, reflects our San Francisco values and is a worthy name for this wonderful place."

Golden Gate Park’s largest body of water, the lake is a popular spot for strolling, picnicking, and pedaling around in boats, which can be rented at the boathouse. Created in 1893, the lake was designed for leisure boating, as a promenade for horse-drawn carriages, and as a reservoir for park irrigation. The 12-acre doughnut-shaped lake surrounds Strawberry Hill Island, a wooded hill named for the wild strawberries that once flourished on its flanks.

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