Incorporated in 1984, Moreno Valley set the US record for growth in the late 1980s, claiming the “nation’s fastest growing city” title. Now with a population exceeding 146,500, the City is still young. Most commercial and industrial buildings, housing, shopping centers, and offices were built after 1985.
Moreno Valley is well situated. The city is served by the Moreno Valley Freeway (Route 60) and Interstate 215. Rail service is available and an intermodal facility is less than 18 miles away. Moreno Valley neighbor, March Inland Port is under development as an air cargo port. Ontario International Airport can be reached in less than 30 minutes. Fiber optic, wireless, and copper telecommunications infrastructure is accessible.
Moreno Valley offers 200 acres of parkland and two major golf courses in Quail Ranch and the Moreno Valley Ranch Golf Course, ranked among America’s finest. The 8,000 acre Lake Perris State Park (providing boating, fishing, and camping) and ephemeral Mystic Lake (famous for
bird watching opportunities) are minutes away. Shoppers enjoy the 1.25 million square foot Moreno Valley Mall and excellent retail centers.
The initial inhabitants of the valley were American Indians, a renegade sect of the Shoshones. These early settlers dotted the area wherever springs or rivers provided water. They developed a pastoral culture nourished by a daily staple of acorn mush supplemented by any available game and edible insects. Rock "metate" bowls used to grind the acorns are still found around Moreno Valley, as are primitive rock paintings.
This was the setting found by the first explorers from Spain who, coming north from Mexico, established various routes to Northern California, setting out well-defined trails, and constructing numerous missions, many of which stand today for the enjoyment of thousands of tourists and history aficionados. One of these trails, the Anza Trail, passes in a northwesterly direction from San Jacinto through the former community of Edgemont, terminating at Alta, California.
One of the members of Captain Anza's second expedition was Father Pedro Font. His diary describes the beauty of the land that was to become Riverside County, with its beautiful San Jacinto River, its fertile earth, and its profusion of growing grass and cottonwoods. It was a description that held for two centuries, and even now describes the overwhelming beauty of an area blessed by prospering farms, benevolent weather, and dynamic growth
Nearly a hundred years later, in 1850, California became a state and the large Spanish land grant of San Jacinto Nuevo Y Potrero became public land, developed by ranchers and traveled over by John Butterfield's legendary but short-lived Overland Mail Company. His Tucson-to-San Francisco stage, via San Diego and Los Angeles, opened up the Temescal approach to Los Angeles, passing through the oak groves of what is now Perris Valley, continuing through what is now Moreno Valley, and over Reche Canyon into Redlands.
In 1883, Frank E. Brown formed the Bear Valley Land and Water Company. Brown ("Brown" is "Moreno" in Spanish) built a dam at Bear Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains and contracted to provide water to the tiny, and new communities of Moreno and Alessandro. In 1891, the formation of the Perris and Alessandro Irrigation District increased the demands upon Bear Valley water, and resulted in litigation with the city of Redlands which claimed priority rights. Redlands won their suit in 1899. This compounded a period of drought which forced the failure of numerous farmers who had developed a strong agricultural base of deciduous and citrus fruit trees.
As a result of the loss of water delivery, the residents of Moreno Valley were forced to leave the area in search of a more livable environment. The more expensive homes were moved in their entirety by steam-powered tractors. Many of them were relocated to the city of Riverside. Others, stolen during the owner's absence, were relocated to parts unknown. By 1901, few people resided in the Moreno Valley, and those who remained turned primarily to the dry farming of hay, grain, and grapes. Mr. Brown had lost his dream, and the valley named after him remained as a reminder of an empire's vulnerability to such simple needs as water.
1918 saw the construction of a new element in the valley's history: March Field. The military airfield was originally built on 640 acres of land purchased primarily from the Hendrick Ranch. March was established at a time when the United States was anticipating entry into World War I and was rushing to build up its military forces. March Field was first used to train fighter pilots; in 1922 the Field was closed, only to reopen again in 1927 as a flight training school. Later, March became a permanent military facility encompassing more than 7,000 acres. For more than 70 years, March Air Force Base enjoyed a long and active military history in the valley; at the height of its activity, the Base supported 85,000 troops.
In 1996, March -- home to the longest airstrip in Southern California -- was realigned as an Air Reserve Base, and is today poised for great economic growth involving public and private development.
The base greatly influenced the growth of the valley. Sunnymead Boulevard was first paved in 1936, and only a few homes dotted the communities of Sunnymead and Moreno. Edgemont started its development in 1940. These three unincorporated rural communities comprised the Moreno Valley, under the governance of Riverside County.
Over the succeeding decades, the valley began to flourish. Developers purchased large parcels of land and began constructing houses and small commercial developments. Attractive land prices lured more developers, and below-market home prices attracted families searching for alternatives to "big city" life.
Growth was not limited to people, planes and produce. Recreation also became a focal point, not only through the natural opportunities of the nearby mountains and desert, but by the opening of such paramount attractions as the Riverside International Raceway in 1958 and Lake Perris Recreation Area in 1973.
The need for managed growth and the desire for self-governance served as the major impetus behind the movement to incorporate the three valley communities as an independent city. The notion was not immediately favored by voters. The incorporation effort failed in the 1968 election and again in 1983. In 1984, however, the voters of Edgemont, Sunnymead and Moreno overwhelmingly passed the measure, and a new city was born.
On December 3, 1984, the City of Moreno Valley was officially incorporated as a California general law municipality. The charter City Council was also elected that year: Bob Lynn, Judith A. Nieburger, Steven Webb, J. David Horspool (the first Mayor Pro Tem), and Marshall C. Scott (the first Mayor).
The City Seal was adopted by the new City Council in 1985. Dominated by the familiar Box Springs Mountain (with the distinctive "M"), the seal design is actually a composite of three winning entries from a citywide contest. The artists were: Robert J. Vasquez, Penny Fithian and Nancy Edwards. The City Motto, "People, Pride, Progress," was suggested by the League of California Cities.