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City adding to open space

Santa Clarita hopes to increase greenbelt with purchase near Agua Dulce

Posted: June 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

The size of Santa Clarita’s dedicated open space has tripled since its open space district was founded in 2007 — and chances are it may gain another 2,000 acres soon, according to city officials.

The city is attempting to purchase about 2,000 acres of land in an important wildlife corridor east of the city limits near Agua Dulce, said Rick Gould, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. He would not give specifics about the location because of the sensitivity of property negotiations, which are completed in closed-session City Council meetings.

“We are very hopeful that significant acquisition will take place in the near future,” Gould said of the talks.

Open space lands cannot be used for development and serve as a growth inhibitor or greenbelt around the city, Gould said. Fewer developments allowed around the city mean fewer residents and fewer problems associated with growth.

“We’re reducing potential growth, reducing traffic and theoretically reducing crime,” Gould said.

The open spaces around the city are an important part of the city because they allow for cleaner water and air in the Santa Clarita Valley, Gould said. The city currently has 6,114 acres of open space.

Gould and acquisitions specialist Barbara Blankenship cite one of their more successful open space stories: the recently acquired 526-acre parcel in Haskell Canyon north of Copper Hill Drive, which was slated for construction of more than 500 homes.

“When we bought that, it met the district’s goals,”  Gould said, adding that it took three years to complete negotiations for the property.

Wildlife corridors
One goal of a greenbelt is to protect wildlife, and the city tries to acquire land to protect wildlife corridors, Blankenship said.

Such corridors are connections between relatively uninhabited areas that wild animals use to reach new habitats.

Biologists say they’re important to prevent inbreeding and foster genetic diversity.

Larger animals, such as cougars, may require wildlife corridors to survive due to their need for large ranges.

Two important such areas for Santa Clarita Valley wildlife are the Newhall Pass and the corridor that connects northern Angeles National Forest with southern Angeles National Forest in the Acton and Agua Dulce area.
This is where the city hopes to purchase of 2,000 acres.

Purchasing wildlife corridor areas can mean more grant money for Santa Clarita, Gould said.

Cameras activated by motion detectors and placed in some of the city’s open space areas have captured pictures of a badger, foxes, skunks, bobcats and coyotes. The photos can be seen by visiting www. http://hikesantaclarita.com/wildlife-caught-on-camera/

Land acquisition
Santa Clarita residents approved the Open Space Preservation District district in 2007, and a portion of their property tax bills goes to the district coffers. But only about a third of the open space acreage comes directly out of district funds, Gould said.

The other two-thirds was land already owned by the city — including the land in Soledad Canyon proposed for the Cemex mine — or has come from developers, Gould said.

Some developers have donated land around the city, while others are required to save part of their land as open space in the process of approving development.

The city also purchases land, some of it tax-defaulted, and negotiates with property owners to purchase land in strategic areas, including wildlife corridor areas, Gould said.

Many of the property purchases completed by the city take at least a year, and the process can become even lengthier when the city strives for matching grant funds at the federal and state level, Blankenship said.

“It’s a matter of the property owners having a realistic expectation of the property’s worth,” Blankenship said.

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