The “Gateway City to the High Desert” is the first local municipality to adopt a resolution that officially recognizes the High Desert as the “Mojave River Valley.”
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Hesperia Mayor Larry Bird and Council members Rebekah Swanson and Cameron Gregg voted to approve the new term.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Holland was absent from the meeting. Last month, Jeremiah Brosowske was voted off the council.
Before the vote, several residents expressed both support and disdain for the name change, something resident Kelly Gregg called a “ridiculous waste of time.”
Hesperia spokeswoman Rachel Molina explained to the council that in 2015, a movement began that focused on identifying the region as the “Mojave River Valley” instead of “High Desert” as the existing term for the area.
Molina said that the term High Desert refers to the local community as well as regions that include the Antelope Valley and Yucca Valley.
She said proponents of naming the area “Mojave River Valley” created a branding campaign to be used to market the region to prospective employers, developers and future residents.
The campaign will communicate that the Mojave River Valley is a great place to raise a family, surrounded by a beautiful desert and open space, is the next frontier of economic growth and expansion, and home to a more relaxing way of life.
The city’s support of the Mojave River Valley movement will include using the term in official communications and in economic development efforts, Molina said.
During public comment, Mojave River Valley Alliance Board Member Tari Blalock and Bradco Companies President Joseph W. Brady shared their support of the rebranding movement.
“The goal of the Mojave River Valley Alliance is to create our own brand, separate and apart from the communities that have historically been called the High Desert,” said Tari Blalock, a member of the Mojave River Valley Alliance.
Blalock added that the new name will emphasize the important historical nature of the Mojave River and how it has impacted the area. The name change would also allow the surrounding communities to create a marketing brand that will improve perception and hopefully create a regional economic coalition that will cause employers to look at us in a different light and attract jobs to the region.
Brady told the Council that several area leaders have embraced the name change, including Exquadrum President Eric Schmidt, John Ohanian of the Terra Verde Group and developer of the Tapestry master-planned community, and businesswoman Trina Siverts, who changed her news publication to Mojave River Valley News.
Brady, who has lived in the area for 31 years, said the ongoing perspective of the High Desert is negative. He added that a name change would help change the image of the area.
But Kelly Gregg, who is on the Hesperia Recreation and Park District Board of Directors said, “We are the Victor Valley and are referred to as the High Desert.” He said the renaming is like painting a deteriorating house without fixing the structure itself.
He said a name change won’t change problems that plague the High Desert, such as crime, homelessness, and drug use.
Resident Jeri Pike said the name Victor Valley “goes way back” when it was connected to railroad man Jacob Nash Victor.
As construction superintendent, Victor and railroad surveyor Fred T. Perris Perris oversaw a crew that graded the Cajon Canyon for the railroad in 1885. Victor was credited for driving the first train engine through the Cajon Pass. The move signaled the linkage of San Bernardino and Barstow, and the completion of the transcontinental route.
Santa Fe proposed naming a town in honor of Victor, who declined the offer. A telegraph station at the Mojave Narrows was eventually named Victor.
In 1901, the U.S. Post Office changed its name to Victorville to avoid confusion with another town of the same name in Colorado. The surrounding area was then referred to as the Victor Valley.
Pike said a name change would be troubling for businesses and organizations that have incorporated the name High Desert. She also believes the name-change request comes from people who are not established in the area.
Councilman Cameron Gregg said he likes the “ring” of Mojave River Valley and that from his business perspective, “Why not press forward with this coalition that’s not pinpointing one city you should move to, but rather bring your business to a collective community?”
Swanson said calling the area the High Desert is confusing and that “it might be the right time” to change the area’s name to the Mojave River Valley.
Bird, who was born 58 years ago in Apple Valley, agreed that it’s time to change the name of the High Desert to the Mojave River Valley, while also fixing the many issues facing the area.
On Wednesday, the Daily Press received nearly a dozen emails and calls from several residents who shared their concern over the council’s support to the term Mojave River Valley.
“They’re already tearing down historic buildings all over the High Desert and now they want to tear down the name High Desert and Victor Valley,” said Joe Ramirez, 65, who has lived in the High Desert for over 50 years. “My dad always told me to never forget where you came from and to always protect your name because it’s the only one you’ll ever have.”