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Marsha McLean: Celebrate our open spaces

Live from City Hall

Posted: June 11, 2009 6:53 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The Santa Clarita City Council recently approved the purchase of 140 acres in Placerita Canyon, located just east of the Walker Ranch trail head and Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

While not the first open space purchase by the city, this property does mark the first purchase of land by the newly created Santa Clarita Open Space Preservation District and was funded in partnership with the county of Los Angeles and fees collected from developers.

This 140-acre oak-dotted site is rich in natural beauty and plays an important role in establishing connectivity between existing protected open spaces.

It will also serve as a permanent safeguard to an important regional wildlife corridor. The acquisition of this property by the city of Santa Clarita completes a critical connection between the Angeles National Forest and the city's 900-acre Golden Valley Ranch open space. Just to the west you will find Placerita Canyon Natural Area, a 350-acre gem of natural biodiversity and scenic beauty.

In the coming months, additional dedications of open space in the Fair Oaks Ranch area will lengthen and extend this wildlife corridor - completing the connectivity from Angeles National Forest, through the 140-acre Placerita Canyon property, onto the Golden Valley Ranch preserve and eventually the Santa Clara River.

All of these properties are an important component of the natural migration route from the San Gabriel and Santa Susanna mountains northward toward the Castaic and Sespe Ranges.

The 140-acre Placerita Canyon property was formerly used as a manufacturing facility for Special Devices Inc. The site was active for decades and previously occupied by dozens of industrial buildings.

Certainly this type of development is a nonhomogenous use when compared to the adjacent protected properties, including the Angeles National Forest, Placerita Canyon Nature Center and the Golden Valley Ranch open space.

Given the site's location in Los Angeles County, the existing manufacturing zoning and regional demand for homes, this property was considered to be under threat of potential development for many years.

As part of the city's agreement to purchase the property, all the buildings have been removed, a big step toward restoring the natural beauty and establishing its future use as open space.

Two small sites on the property, totaling about 1.6 acres, were the subject of investigations by the Department of Toxic Substances Controls (DTSC). The DTSC has found that no additional action will be needed on the property as it is suitable for open space uses.

Under the terms of our agreement, there's a restriction of "no buildings" on only six acres (including buffer zones) of the 140 acres, a concept completely compatible with our vision and use of the property as preserved open space.

Currently, the city owns more than 3,500 acres of open space, but our role as a regional participant in the protection of open space is growing. Our commitment to the preservation of our natural resources began decades ago.

Long before I became a member of the City Council, I was joined by the city, many local volunteers, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Buck McKeon to successfully stop the proposed 190-million-ton dump in Elsmere Canyon. We were also successful in preserving over 400 acres in Whitney Canyon.

Our local lobbying efforts, community activism and coordination with other agencies, including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, has helped to expand the protection of local and regional open space at both state and federal levels. The recent passage of the California Wilderness Bill (H.R. 146) protects some 700,000 acres of California's wildlands and rivers, some right here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since the city's inception in 1987, Santa Clarita's aggressive open-space partnering and acquisition has served as an effective framework to promote better air and water quality, protect and enhance our valley's biodiversity and wildlife corridors, as well as improve trail connections and recreational opportunities.

Our valley is rich in historical and ecological significance, which continues to demonstrate its vitality with recent bear and mountain lion sightings in the valley.

We are so fortunate to have an opportunity to be stewards in our community by creating a greenbelt around the city to protect our wildlife and to ensure a high quality of life for future generations. The benefits of protected open space are forever and truly innumerable.

Marsha McLean is a Santa Clarita City Councilwoman. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Live from City Hall" runs Fridays in The Signal and is provided by the city of Santa Clarita.


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