Lovingood Fills Out First District Western Desert & Mountain Advisory Councils

San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood has filled positions on two advisory councils serving two of the county’s more removed areas.
Those panels – the Searles Valley-Trona Municipal Advisory Council and the Wrightwood Municipal Advisory Council – now consist of five members and six members, respectively.
Trona, which lies at the extreme northwest tip of San Bernardino County within the Searles Valley at the mouth of Death Valley, came into existence in the 1880s as a remote mining outpost, where borax and subsequently potash and the mineral trona, either in the form trisodium hydrogendicarbonate dihydrate or sodium sesquicarbonate dehydrate, was mined, giving the town its name. In 1913, the American Trona Corporation, a mineral mining company, undertook to establish a company town at Trona, and planned and designed a community that included a library, a school, a dance hall, recreation facilities including a bowling alley and other amenities. Trona became something of a world unto itself for the workforce employed at the mines and in the chemical plant, where company employees were not paid in greenbacks nor with checks but by company scrip, which was tender in the company-owned stores and shops in the town. The major link to the outside world was the Trona Railway built in 1913–14 as a rail connection to what was then the Southern Pacific Line at Searles.
World War I prompted an economic boom in Trona, which was at that time the only reliable American source of potash, an important element used in the production of gunpowder. The town’s population grew, peaking at around 7,000, making it what was at the time the eighth largest community in the county. Talk of incorporating did not advance to fruition since it was not in the American Trona Corporation’s interest to surrender control over the townsite.
The American Trona Corporation became the American Potash & Chemical Corporation in 1926, at which time its major products were borax, soda ash and sodium sulfate. Productions of these chemicals continued to expand and by the late 1950s the company had instituted an innovative solvent extraction process to recover boric acid and potassium sulfate from weak brines that kept it profitable. In 1967, Kerr-McGee Corporation acquired the American Potash and Chemical Corporation. In 1990 the operations were purchased from capital investors D. George Harris and Associates, resulting in the formation of the North American Chemical Company. Ownership changed yet again in 1998 when IMC Global Incorporated acquired the North American Chemical Company. In 2004 Sun Capital Partners purchased IMC Global Incorporated and renamed it Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. In November 2007, Nirma, based in Ahmedabad, India purchased the company from Sun Capital Partners. While the population of Trona in 2000 stood at 2,742, it has been steadily declining ever since.
The Trona Unified School District boasts two schools, an elementary school and a seventh through 12th grade high school. The district currently has an enrollment of 262. In 2016, 18 seniors graduated from the high school.
The closest population center to Trona is Ridgecrest in Kern County. Indian Wells Valley straddles southeastern Kern County, southwestern Inyo County and Northwestern San Bernardino County. Underlying it is the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin, from which the City of Ridgecrest and its outlying area’s domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural water users draw their water, as does the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, the Searles Valley Mineral Company in Trona and the remainder of industrial, commercial and domestic users in Trona. San Bernardino County has joined with Kern and Inyo counties, the City of Ridgecrest, the United States Navy and United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management to initiate the formation of a joint power authority to counteract the overdraft of the aquifer.
A decade ago or more, an arsonist began his destructive work in Trona, and as many as two dozen homes all over the community have been destroyed.
Today, Trona boasts a post office, a sheriff’s substation, a fire station, a store and a single restaurant, called Esparza.
Trona lies within San Bernardino County’s First Supervisorial District and is the bailiwick of Supervisor Robert Lovingood. Last month, at Lovingood’s recommendation, the board of supervisors appointed to Margaret D. Brush, Christopher R. Darling, Zana C. Eisenhour, Lezlie L. Foreman and Doris Van Horn to the Searles Valley-Trona Municipal Advisory Council, all to full four-year terms ending on December 19, 2020.
Also contained within the First District is Wrightwood, a town of 4,525 people located in a pine-covered valley in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Mount Baldy and south of what is referred to as the Blue Ridge at close to the 6,000 foot level at the extreme west end of San Bernardino County bordering Los Angeles County. The area was first developed as cattle ranches in the 19th century by Nathan and Truman Swarthout. The main Swarthout ranch, then owned by Sumner Wright, was broken up into residential and commercial lots. In the 1920s, after ski enthusiasts took notice of the north facing slopes of the San Gabriels above Swarthout Valley, the area became a primary winter sport recreational/vacation area, with Los Angeles County developing the Big Pines ski area. Because of the area’s well developed road system to accommodate ski enthusiasts and tourists, along with the proliferation of mountain cabins, Wrightwood has evolved from a vacation enclave into a residential community, and shares with its neighbors Phelan and Pinon Hills, which are nine and twelve miles distant, respectively, the use of several public facilities, including Serrano High School.
Last month, at Lovingood’s recommendation, the board of supervisors appointed Paul M. Bauer, Chuck Carroll, Stephanie Carroll, Robert Comperini, Natalie R. Lopiccolo and Alex F. Peterson to full four-year terms on the Wrightwood Municipal Advisory Council ending on December 19, 2020.

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