The California State Parka and Recreation Commission unanimously voted to change the name of Negro Bar Recreation Area on Lake Natoma in Folsom. The popular day-use area will temporarily be known as “Black Miners Bar” with a permanent name to be considered in the coming year.
Negro Bar was founded by a group of African Americans in the 1849 as a small mining settlement and became one of the larger gold camps along the American River. Today, it sits as the popular Negro Bar State Recreation Area in Folsom.
The commission has spent the past two years using State Park rangers, historians, and local groups to make its decision on the name. Ultimately, they decided the time to change is now.
“When someone comes to me and tells me they can’t use the park because they’re uncomfortable using it, I take that really deep to heart,” said Barry Smith, district superintendent for the Gold Fields District of California State Parks. “I feel that it’s my time to listen, and understand why, and what I can do to help.”
The recreation area’s name has been a hot topic for locals for decades. In 1999, California State Parks considered changing its name, but ultimately decided against it. Then in 2018, against the backdrop of the George Floyd protests, an online petition to change the park’s name was created in 2018 by Phaedra Jones, an African American woman from Stockton.
Opposition of the name change sites its historical significance as an African American settlement during the Gold Rush.
“Many feel that a name change would reduce the cultural significance and important contribution that African Americans made in the region,” the California State Parks said in a 2018 statement. “While the Department of Parks and Recreation is very sensitive to the perception of unit names within our state parks, we are also very careful to insure that our rich California culture and history remain intact.”
Name changes have been a hot topic in California State Parks in recent years. The popular Patrick’s Point State Park in Humboldt County was recently changed to Sue-meg State Park to honor the Yurok Tribe, which has called that region their home for thousands of years. In 2021, Squaw Valley was renamed Palisades Tahoe to eliminate the word deemed sexist and racist towards Native American women. Palisades’ new logo portrays an eagle, which pays homage to the Washoe Tribe.
On Saturday, a Juneteenth commemoration will be held at the day-use area now known as Black Miners Bar.