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Laurene Weste: A big year for open space

Live from City Hall

Posted: January 21, 2011 10:24 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

Just over the hill from Santa Clarita live more than 10 million people, but thanks to a very special Open Space Preservation District purchase last year in Elsmere Canyon, our valley will be forever protected and buffered from the bustling metropolitan area.

The Santa Clarita Open Space Preservation District is designed to preserve our natural land from development and complete a greenbelt buffer of preserved open space around the city of Santa Clarita.

Through the creation of the Open Space Preservation District in 2007, the city becomes the property owner, along with local partners, and will then preserve these acquired public lands forever as mandated by the new district.

This district has a unique opportunity to ensure that the Santa Clarita of the future is not overrun by development, but rather a beautiful greenbelt surrounds our city.

Since its inception, the Open Space Preservation District has acquired 1,235 acres of land with $5.49 million spent for acquisitions and improvements. Last year was a most significant one for the Open Space Preservation District, with 1,085 acres and $4.29 million being spent for the purchase for Elsmere Canyon and the Rodda/Agua Dulce Partners properties.

In October, the city successfully closed escrow on 842 acres in Elsmere Canyon. Elsmere Canyon is located in the Newhall Pass and is adjacent to the Angeles National Forest, and the protected lands in Whitney and Placerita canyons.
Elsmere Canyon is an area of significant importance as it provides connectivity to existing wildlife corridors and increases the city’s greenbelt of protected open space.

Elsmere Canyon is located on the Rim of the Valley corridor, a popular spot for local hikers, equestrians and nature enthusiasts. The city was able to leverage Open Space District funds by partnering with Los Angeles County through a Proposition A grant, and funds dedicated by county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. 

In the 1990s, local community advocates, with the support of United States Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.  and Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, fought to keep this pristine canyon from becoming the largest landfill in the United States.

The total purchase price for Elsmere Canyon was $6 million.  The city’s Open Space District funds provided $3.85 million; The county gave $1.75 million, and the conservancy committed $500,000.

In addition to Elsmere Canyon, the city closed escrow last year on the Rodda/Agua Dulce Partners property. This property is contiguous to the existing city-owned open space Wagoner property, and completes another portion of a future “bridge” making connections to the Angeles National Forest. This land is part of the Santa Clara River watershed, the Sierra Pelona and San Gabriel mountain ranges, and this “missing linkage” is recognized as part of the Conservation Area Protection Plan. The Rodda purchase further enhances the protected eastern greenbelt and expands the city’s open-space land.

With a total purchase price of $1,290,000, the Rodda acquisition was funded with a $750,000 grant to the Riverside Land Conservancy from the State of California Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. The balance of funds was provided by the city’s Open Space Preservation District.

Along with acquiring open space, the city is looking for ways for residents to get maximum enjoyment of these areas.
Currently, the city is master planning several open space parcels to determine their best use. Residents have told us that they want amenities such as hiking areas, equestrian trails, camping and other passive uses. 

Creating a buffer of open space around our valley for all of us to enjoy is a key component of continuing the high quality of life here in Santa Clarita, and helping to preserve the character of our unique city. Santa Clarita is a visionary city, and one of the few with its own open space preservation district, so that we make public ownership of land a high priority.

For more information on the property purchase please contact Barbara Blankenship, the city’s acquisition specialist for Open Space, at (661) 286-4046 or visit santaclaritaopenspace.com.
Laurene Weste is a Santa Clarita City Council member and can be reached at: lweste@santa-clarita.com.

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