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Budget Includes $8 Million for Mountain Park

December 22, 1985|MYRON LEVIN | Times Staff Writer

The spending bill approved by Congress on Thursday includes nearly $8 million to buy land for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

A National Park Service spokesman in Woodland Hills said officials there were very happy about the appropriation, which may allow them to acquire the key Quaker Corp. tract in Calabasas that is threatened by development.

Money for the mountain park was contained in a $368-billion package that funds several major departments--including Defense, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Treasury--through the fiscal year that ends next Sept. 30. The $7.95 million for the Santa Monicas is about one-sixth of the $48.1 million approved for park expansion nationwide.

The spending bill still needs White House approval, but President Reagan has indicated that he will sign it.

Annual Rite

In what has become an annual autumn rite, national recreation area officials and boosters had been sweating through House and Senate negotiations aimed at reconciling conflicting budgets for land purchases. The House had approved $12 million to expand the mountain park, but the Senate, following the recommendation of the Reagan Administration, had appropriated no money for the park.

Created by Congress in 1978, the recreation area encompasses 150,000 acres of public and privately owned land extending from Griffith Park in Los Angeles to Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County. Plans call for local, state and federal agencies eventually to own about two-thirds of the land, with the rest remaining in private hands. The Park Service has acquired about 11,000 of the 36,000 acres it intends to buy.

Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles), who sponsored the bill that established the recreation area and lobbied for the latest appropriation, said in a prepared statement that the $8 million "is not a huge amount when you look at how much land the National Park Service still needs to buy there."

But Beilenson said that, in light of the $48 million for park expansion nationwide, "the Santa Monicas did very, very well."

'Congress Is Serious'

The appropriation, Beilenson said, shows that "Congress is serious about completing this park," despite repeated requests for no funding by the Reagan Administration and "enormous pressures to cut spending wherever possible."

The appropriation should enable the Park Service to keep its part of a deal that will mean public ownership of the Adamson Cos.' 1,500-acre holdings in Zuma and Trancas canyons in Malibu--the largest undeveloped canyon property in Los Angeles County.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency, is putting up $6 million to buy and hold nearly 800 acres of the land for eventual sale to the Park Service. The Park Service has until Dec. 31 to come up with nearly $2.1 million for the other half of the property.

In addition, the appropriation could lead to a showdown between the Park Service and Quaker Corp., which owns a 272-acre tract along Mulholland Highway in the Las Virgenes Valley. Park Service officials have said they want to acquire the land for use as part of a "major activity site" because its rugged mountain scenery and abundant flatland make it ideal for camping, picnicking and similar pursuits.

34-Lot Subdivision

In September, however, Quaker won approval from the California Coastal Commission to subdivide the property into 34 house lots.

Since then, Quaker officials have denied the Park Service permission to send an appraiser onto the property and have lobbied members of Congress and top Park Service officials to strike their land from the list of priority acquisitions.

As part of that unsuccessful effort, Quaker lobbyists claimed that various state agencies had declared the tract unsuitable for recreational use. But state officials said no such conclusion had even been drawn.

Saul Jacobs, Quaker Corp. vice president, declined comment Thursday on the congressional action.

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