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Neighbors aim to change name of Lost Coon Lake

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | August 7, 2020 1:00 AM

A group of neighbors who live around Lost Coon Lake, along with the city of Whitefish, are expected to soon file a petition in court to change the name of the lake due to its connection to a racial slur.

A petition with the plan to change the name to Lost Loon Lake is expected to be filed with Flathead County District Court.

Frank Sweeney, who lives on the lake and serves on Whitefish City Council, has been working on the effort. Sweeney’s wife, Paula, and other neighbors have been gathering support for the change for the last few years.

“There’s been no opposition to changing the name of the lake when you look at the history,” Sweeney said. “You can’t make an argument about this being about too much political correctness because when you look it up in the dictionary on the second reference for what this means, it doesn’t make any sense not to change it.”

Coon is an insulting and contemptuous term for a Black person, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Lost Coon Lake is southwest of Whitefish and is about 61 acres in size. There is no pubic access to the lake. A portion of the Whitefish Golf Course borders the western shore, thus the city owns property along the lake.

To change the name, it requires at least 10 of the property owners along the lake, of which there are roughly 20 total, to petition the court. After a public hearing process, a hearing will be held and if there is not opposition then the change will likely be approved. Then the change of name will be recorded with the county and U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

Sweeney said Whitefish Golf Course already refers to the lake as Lost Loon Lake and there are loons that live on the lake. In addition, neighbors felt it was a good choice for a new name.

“It retains the good part of the history of the lake,” he said.

The history of the current name of the lake isn’t largely known. USGS maps show the name of the lake as Lost Coon Lake for certain years, while others show it as having no name. According to the book “Stump Town to Ski Town” on the history of Whitefish, it was originally called “Nigger Lake” and was allegedly named such because of an African American woman, Mrs. Randals, who operated a rooming house near the lake. Some, however, claim that Randals was actually Spanish, according to the book.

How the lake name was changed to Lost Coon Lake isn’t entirely clear, but a Wikipedia entry notes that in the mid-20th century there was a refusal to accept ice harvest contracts with the name on it.

An article in the Whitefish Pilot in February 1964 said the name of the lake was to be changed to Lodgepole Pond after polling property owners because the lake had no official name on maps. Why the lake name remained Lost Coon Lake and was never changed is uncertain.

Neighbors also are working together to begin the process of renaming the road Lost Coon Trail, which runs near the lake. That will involve submitting the change to the county for approval.

Once the lake name is changed, Sweeney expects that will pave the way for changing the road name.

Assisting with changing the name of the lake and the road were approved by the Whitefish City Council for its list of goals for fiscal year 2021.

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Lost Coon Lake is southwest of Whitefish and is about 61 acres in size. There is no public access to the lake. A portion of the Whitefish Golf Course borders the lake. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

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Lost Coon Trail takes off from Karrow Avenue south of Whitefish. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)