Bishop man drops ‘Portagee Joe’ campground suit threat

Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

LADWP: Campground’s name must be changed to meet lease obligations

By Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

A Bishop resident who has demanded Inyo County change the name of a county-operated campground that contains an ethnic slur said he has dropped his threat to sue the county over the issue.
“Portagee Joe Campground” is the name of an Inyo County campground just west of Lone Pine, which was named in the 1960s in honor of Jose Pires, “Portagee Joe,” whose camp/residence was near the location of the campground. “Portagee” is considered an ethnic slur.
Allen Berrey, an attorney, has been championing the name change of “Portagee Joe Campground” for years. Last month he sent correspondence to Inyo County and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns the land where the campground is situated, threatening a lawsuit if the name wasn’t changed.
On Tuesday, however, Berrey stated that “due to the amount of vitriolic opposition expressed in response to my proposal to change the name of Inyo County’s Portagee Joe Campground to Portuguese Joe Campground, I have decided to cease my efforts in that regard. Specifically, I have withdrawn my letter threatening litigation against inyo county over the name.”
County staff were set to bring the issue forward to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors in the spring to discuss the matter further.
Inyo County Fifth District Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Kingsley stated in an email Wednesday that in light of the unpredictable nature of Mr. Berrey and his engagement on this issue, I will be allowing the dust to settle before making any recommendations or decisions going forward.”
However, according to the lease agreement with LADWP, which requires contains LADWP’s requirement that Inyo County not engage in any form of discrimination in its operation of the campground, the county may not have a choice.
LADWP Aqueduct Manager Clarence Martin on Wednesday said, after consulting with Anselmo Collins, director of Water operations for the utility, now that the issue has been brought to LADWP’s attention, “we have to abide by our own lease rules.”
“Regardless of the department being threatened with a lawsuit or not, we’re aware of the issue now and we’re going to encourage the county to find an alternative name for the campground,” Martin said. “We can’t condone a derogatory or a discriminatory name. The county needs to really look at this and go with a different name or provide us with some kind of evidence that shows it’s not derogatory or discriminatory and I don’t know if they can do that.”
Martin said as the country as a whole, including California, become more conscious about these issues “we need to make an effort to correct them.”
“No one could get a way with naming a campground in LA something derogatory like that,” Martin said. “That’s not the sentiment of the LA City Council, Mayor (Eric) Garcetti, nor the LADWP Board of Commissioners. We need to do what’s best for the city of Los Angeles.”