A Kenai family looking to christen a previously unnamed lake near Moose Point has found the process does not come without difficulties.
Kenai resident Joan Yeager, whose name appears on the application, owns property with her husband on the lake, which is situated 31 miles northeast of Nikiski and less than 2 miles from the Cook Inlet. The proposed name is Regaey Lake.
The Alaska Historical Commission is responsible for reviewing proposed names for geographic features before forwarding them to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for final approval. State Historian Joan Antonson said the proposed name is being applied for under the Local Usage guideline. The lake has been used by residents surrounding the lake for at least 20 years.
Yeager said she and her husband worked for years to cultivate the area surrounding the lake, including creating roads to get out to it.
“We’ve been working at it for almost 30 years,” Yeager said.
Yeager said her family spends a significant amount of time at the lake, and that others who own nearby property have been asking about its name for years. She wants to make its name official, she said, to eliminate confusion for those who spend time in the area annually.
“We spend every summer there,” Yeager said. “It’s basically that everybody knows the lake.”
The lake is only accessible by ATV.
Yeager said it is best to ride down the beach along the shore of the Cook Inlet — but only during low tide — before turning inland toward the lake.
“We really don’t want everybody and their brother out there,” she said.
A few other locals and out-of-towners own property on or near the lake, and they gave their input and approval for the proposed name change. Originally, Yeager wanted to name the lake after her husband, since he was the one who officially “broke trail” in an attempt to make the lake accessible. However, the Alaska Historical Commission has a guideline mandating that a commemorative name can only be approved if the person has been deceased for at least five years.
Antonson said this stipulation exists to deter relatives of deceased family members who were involved with a particular geographic site from making rash decisions when it comes to naming.
“(It’s) the emotion of the moment. Names will be there for a long time,” Antonson said. “It’s thought that five years will give you a little bit of time to step back and decide if the person has (an) … association with the feature.”
Since the proposed name Regaey Lake is being applied for under local usage, there is no such stipulation. The name needs only to have been used unofficially for a long period of time. Local usage guidelines require that the applicant provides “published evidence of verbal or written usage of the name, petitions signed by local residents, and resolutions or letters of support from government entities and community groups.”
The Alaska Historical Commission must also reach out to gather public comments about the proposed name from local entities. Since this lake is on the Kenai Peninsula, the commission has reached out to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the City of Kenai, the Nikiski Community Council and others. Antonson said the nine-member commission takes the comments into consideration when deliberating a proposed name.
If a name application is approved, it is sent to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Once at the federal level, a naming application can take a while to go through.
“We always say that a name proposal takes at least a year,” Antonson said. “Once we send it in, the U.S. board staff do a docket, and they wait until they have about 30 names to do a docket.”
Antonson said complicated naming applications can sometimes hold up the clear-cut proposals for months at a time.
The Alaska Historical Commission will stop taking comments on the proposed Regaey Lake on Sept. 1, and will address the proposal at their Dec. 8 meeting in Anchorage. The commission receives around 15 applications to name features per year, Antonson said.
Once a lake is officially named, Antonson said it is entered into the Geographic Names Information System, and mappers do their best to include new names whenever maps are redrawn.
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