Presidential peak: Sunrise man wants to name highest point on Frenchman Mountain for Reagan

If Sunrise Manor resident Chuck Muth has his way, soon the entire valley will be able to watch the sun rise over Mount Reagan.

“There’s a lot of things named for President Reagan, but nothing in Nevada,” Muth said. “I think it would be great if people came to Las Vegas and could see Mount Reagan. You can see the peak from practically anywhere in the valley.”

Conservative blogger and activist Muth’s proposal is to name the highest peak of the Frenchman Mountain range for Reagan. The 4,052-foot peak is currently unnamed. The peak is only a few feet shorter than the second highest peak, just to the south of the proposed Mount Reagan. Both peaks are easy to spot as they are festooned with broadcasting antennas. The peak Muth has his eye on is the one on the left.

Muth was inspired by a proposal from Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist’s Reagan Legacy Project seeks to have things named in every state in the union for the 40th president of the United States.

This is not his first attempt at naming a peak in Nevada Mount Reagan. A previous campaign to rename the highest point in Nevada, Boundary Peak in Esmeralda County for the president fell short because the U.S. Board on Geographic Names doesn’t encourage changing established names without a compelling reason. For example, several places with established names considered culturally offensive are in the process of being changed.

Muth set his sights on the highest peak of Frenchman Mountain in part because there is some confusion about the mountain’s appellation among locals.

“I was talking to my daughter, and I said something about Sunrise Mountain, and she corrected me,” Muth said. “A lot of people call Frenchman Mountain ‘Sunrise Mountain,’ which I remembered when she reminded me.”

Frenchman Mountain is the large range of mountains that dominates the east side of the valley. Sunrise Mountain is farther north and east and is obscured by Frenchman Mountain in some parts of the valley.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Terry Robertson, a local environmental activist who lives below the proposed Mount Reagan peak. “If you’re going to suddenly give it a name, why not choose someone who has more of a connection to the area?”

Naming landmarks and buildings after U.S. presidents is not unusual, and a connection to the place is not a prerequisite. For example, George Washington never came anywhere near the state that bears his name.

Reagan, a longtime resident of neighboring California, had several connections to Nevada, and the state played a part in his shift from entertainer to politician.

“Reagan did a two-week stint at the Frontier in 1954,” said Michael Green, a professor at the College of Southern Nevada who pens the current Nevada Yesterdays segments for KNPR. “I don’t think it’s fair to say he bombed, but he was doing a sort of variety act, and there were chimps in the show. It was while he was on his way back to California from that he decided he was never going to sink that low again, and he was going to get into politics.”

Green pointed out that a bad show in Las Vegas wasn’t necessarily the end of an entertainer’s career.

“Two years later, the Frontier was renovated and renamed the New Frontier,” Green said. “A young Elvis Presley played the same room, and he definitely bombed. I think it’s fair to say he bounced back from that.”

Although Muth and Green are both outspoken voices on opposite sides of the political fence, Green doesn’t think naming something in Nevada after Reagan is inappropriate.

“Reagan, love him or hate him, was an important person,” Green said. “He was important to Nevada more so than some other states.”

Green cited his close relationship with Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt, who worked with Reagan on efforts to preserve Lake Tahoe.

“When Reagan was elected president, it gave Laxalt entrée to the White House like no other Nevada politician ever had,” Green said. “It led to the appointment of Nevadans to significant positions they really hadn’t had before. That served the purpose of letting people know that not everybody out here wore polyester suits and neck chains.”

Naming a geographic feature in the United States is a multistep process. Currently, Muth’s proposal is under consideration by the Nevada Board of Geographic Names, which meets three times a year in the Reno area. The group’s next meeting is expected to be scheduled for May, and according to the group’s chairman, Linda Newman, discussion of Mount Reagan should be on the agenda.

If the Nevada board approves the name, it will send its recommendation to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which will make the final decision, although an act of Congress or presidential executive order could countermand a decision by the board.

For more information on the naming effort, visit mountreaganproject.com.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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