The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will ask the state for a $16-million grant to acquire and develop 606 acres near Santa Clarita as the county's first off-road vehicle park, a county official said Tuesday.
After studying more than 50 sites over two years, county officials selected Whitney Canyon, near the Antelope Valley Freeway and San Fernando Road east of Newhall.
The park would be open to all types of off-road vehicles, including motorcycles, three-wheel all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies and four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Preliminary plans for the canyon park call for 8 miles of riding trails, two 20-acre motocross tracks, a smaller bicycle motocross track, an amphitheater for club meetings and parking for 1,000 vehicles.
The county will apply for the grant by Tuesday and begin an environmental impact study and draw up a master plan in April, said Dorothea Park, head of the department's search committee.
Opposition From Homeowners
The search committee had considered Bee and Hume canyons in the Santa Clarita Valley for the vehicle park, but dropped those sites because of opposition from homeowners.
Off-road enthusiasts mailed hundreds of letters to Supervisor Mike Antonovich's office asking for the creation of a park when Indian Dunes Park closed in February, 1984, Park said.
Indian Dunes Park was a popular 600-acre private facility in Valencia. It had eight race tracks and miles of twisting trails, and operated every day.
It was the only place in the county that motocross racers could practice during the week, said Walt James, who was manager of Indian Dunes.
Although national forests and state parks have riding trails and open areas and pits that can be used by off-road riders, those facilities are inadequate for racing enthusiasts, said Greg Barbacovi of the California Racing Club, an amateur motocross-riders organization.
"I know the need for a new park, since the last year Indian Dunes was open, 80,000 motorcyclists used it," James said. "There's no tracks anymore to practice during the week. If they do want to practice, they have to enter a race."
James and Barbacovi were among about 100 people who attended a public meeting on the park proposal Tuesday night in Valencia. Twenty-one people spoke in favor of the proposal and 18 spoke against.
Opponents said that turning Whitney Canyon into a gathering place for motorcyclists and buggy riders could have a negative effect on the environment of nearby Placerita Canyon Nature Center.
But Park defended the proposal.
"We've looked at a number of options, and this is our best option," she said. "Other areas can't handle what Whitney can."
Barbacovi, who said his California Racing Club has about 6,000 members in Southern California, said he believes riders of off-road vehicles will make good neighbors.
"We don't want to create a war," he said. "We hate the image of a bunch of beer-drinking drunks wearing leather jackets and riding all over the place. . . . We would like to be peaceful neighbors."
Barbacovi also said that off-road-vehicle enthusiasts will "practice any place where they think they are not going to get caught." The nearest legal racing site is Hungry Valley near Gorman.