Hearing on Black Mountain name change postponed

Billionaire vintner Jess Jackson's proposal to change the name of a mountain looming over Alexander Valley isn't going to be decided any time soon.

The California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names meets Wednesday, but has decided to postpone until July its discussion on the request to rename Black Mountain. The committee chairman said he wants to wait until the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors makes a recommendation on the controversial proposal.

Longtime residents who oppose renaming Black Mountain said the delay could be beneficial.

"I think it gives us longer for public input. I don't see a downside," said Gary Wilson, a Healdsburg resident staunchly against changing the mountain's name.

Jackson Family Enterprises last year proposed renaming 3,128-foot-high peak to "Alexander Mountain," saying it would distinguish it from many others in the country named Black Mountain and honor the heritage of pioneer Cyrus Alexander, for whom Alexander Valley is named.

After the application was filed, a company official acknowledged the prime reason was to bolster the case for a new American Viticultural Area for the grapes grown on Jackson's 5,400-acre estate on the slopes of Black Mountain.

Jackson's company several years ago applied to federal alcohol regulators for a special "Alexander Mountain" designation, to help distinguish the premium wine grapes grown there. There has been no decision on that application.

Many long time residents are opposed to changing the name of Black Mountain, which looks more like a long ridge, compared to its more pointed and prominent northerly neighbor, Geyser Peak. It's been known as Black Mountain for more than a century.

According to Wilson, his family ties to the mountain go back to Gold Rush days when pioneer relatives hunted there. He has gathered about 300 petition signatures against the name change and also helped convince the Healdsburg City Council last month to oppose it.

The Cloverdale City Council in August came out in favor of changing the name to Alexander Mountain before the issue heated up.

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