Students at McCleary School got something to cheer about on Friday (October 23). The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names advanced their request to designate a previously unnamed pond near the school as Wildcat Pond in honor of the elementary school’s mascot. That proposal, which passed muster with the McCleary City Council in 2014, now heads to the Board of Natural Resources for a final confirmation. If approved, it will become the official name listed on state maps and documents. The proposal’s next, and final, stop, would be the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
The committee, also gave its blessing on Friday to two other requests from the public: Designate an unnamed waterway in Jefferson County as Cooper Creek to honor early homesteaders in the area, and name a notch, or pass, on the southern flank of Mount Rainier for Capt. George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy. While Vancouver likely never set foot in that area, he did describe it in his journal during a voyage to this area in 1792.
The all-volunteer committee of experts and interested parties was created by the state legislature to weed through proposals from the public to name geographic features. This article in the Tacoma News Tribune describes the process in detail. The most current proposals — all submitted by Washington residents — are on the DNR website.
The formal geographic naming process we use today was created in 1890 by presidential order because surveyors, map makers, and scientists needed uniform, non-conflicting geographic nomenclature. In this age of geographic information systems and the Internet, standard geographic names are more important than ever.