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Landmark set for film, not public

Citizens group says Mentryville kept in ‘disrepair’ for filming; official blames staffing issues

Posted: June 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Historic structures line a dirt road behind a gate at Mentryville.

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Years ago, you could stroll onto the grounds of Mentryville and have a picnic, take pictures or just enjoy the peace and quiet.

But those days aren't likely to return.

The picturesque oil town located at the end of Pico Canyon Road is of more value closed to the public than it would be open.

"The film industry brings in more money than opening the town to daily visitors would," Friends of Mentryville spokesman Duane Harte said.

"They're constantly filming there." he said. "The main reason for keeping the town in a relative state of disrepair is the filming business."

Mentryville was established in 1876 as an oil town built around the first commercially successful oil well in the western United States.

Friends of Mentryville is a group of citizens who work to preserve the historic value of the park.

Hollywood filmmaking is a very regular occurrence at the otherwise fenced-off town maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Harte said.

"Since the conservancy gets a lot of money from film companies, they are hesitant on doing a lot of renovations," he said. "It would be a cost to them to try to open it to the public and not film there."

Located in the Santa Susana Mountains west of Stevenson Ranch, Mentryville has undergone renovations, including shoring up its buildings against future mud slides and earthquakes, Conservancy official Dash Stolarz said.

Mentryville repairs were partially funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

After the 1994 earthquake, the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy received about $1 million in FEMA funds to shore up the town's existing buildings: a schoolhouse, a mansion and a red barn, Stolarz said.

"Everything is stabilized, but there are no plans to open the town any time soon," she said.

At a minimum, Harte would like to see the schoolhouse open to the general public.

"It's the one place people always ask about," he said.

Harte gives free group tours of the town on weekends by appointment, but the town remains closed to the public otherwise, he said.

This is due in part to a lack of personnel needed to keep the town open on a regular basis, Stolarz said.

"Quite honestly, we're stretched for staff these days," she said. "I don't think the town will ever be accessible to everyone."

Except for the town, Mentryville Park is open to the public between sunrise and sunset, including miles of hiking trails and Johnson Park, less than a mile from the park's main entrance.

Park admission is $5.

For information concerning weekend group tours, call 818-768-2302.




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