CALICO • Keely Harmer and Amber Pleasance visited Calico on Monday afternoon because the two tourists from London said they wanted to see a real ghost town.
If it hadn't been called Calico Ghost Town, said 22-year-old Pleasance, they might have passed right by the historic silver mining town.
The name piques your interest, said Pleasance.
"'Ghost' just makes it sound a bit more scary," Harmer added.
However, officials from the County of San Bernardino Regional Parks Department are trying to "broaden" the appeal of the tourist attraction nestled in the desert mountains by dropping "ghost" from two new billboards erected on both sides of Interstate 15.
According to Maureen Snelgrove, interim director for the regional parks department, the new signs omit "ghost" in order to "broaden the marketing for Calico."
"That was the only purpose behind it," said Snelgrove, who also noted that no other signs — leading up to Calico, or in the buildings, shops and restaurant inside the town will be removed or changed.
The new signs were placed by the interstate near Yermo Road and by Harvard Road around the end of June, according to Cyndi Zidell, Calico spokeswoman. Zidell said she did not know how much the new billboards cost.
Shop owner John Major said the county, which leases land to business owners at Calico, should be trying to highlight the ghost town aspect instead of downplaying it.
"It's a real nice hook," said Major, owns the Candle Company with his wife.
"I think it's a mistake," he said. Major also noted that the county discontinued funding for "ghost tours" — walking tours led by a Calico history buff that explained the "ghost" folklore of the once abandoned town.
Henry Gooding, who owns Calico Saddle and Boot Repair, said many business owners were unhappy when they were informed by county officials that the historic name on the sign had changed.
"It's a ghost town because the town died at one time ... it's part of its history," said the Daggett resident.
"Some of these changes are not going to help us get people in here," Gooding said.
There are currently no plans to alter any signs by the highway off-ramps, according to Caltrans Spokeswoman Rose Melgoza. Any changes to highway signs would have to be made at the requester's expense — not taxpayer dollars, Melgoza noted.
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