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Smoothing the Path to the Park

June 19, 1988

The prospects for making long-needed additions to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area look brighter today than they have in several years. California voters have approved the park bond issue that earmarks $30 million to buy land in the mountains. On the day after that vote a key House subcommittee recommended that next year's federal budget include $13 million for parkland in the mountains.

The decision by a House appropriations subcommittee by no means ensures that the full $13 million will be in the final budget. In recent years the Senate has put no money in for the recreation area, and conferees split the difference. Half-measures are no longer good enough. House conferees should hold out for the full amount. Land purchases have been put off for too many years while land prices have risen. Already the property where the park entrance and headquarters would have been located has been bought by developers.

The financial distress that the recreation area faces was compounded last year when the House's influential subcommittee chairman, Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.), agreed to cut the mountains appropriation from $12 million to $1 million. Yates, usually an ally in such matters, apparently acted in a fit of pique at the way a friend's son--a landowner in the mountains--was being treated during condemnation proceedings.

If the parkland had been acquired at the pace that was anticipated when the region was designated a national recreation area in 1978, the park would have been finished by now. A coalition has formed to attempt to get the project back on the track, and its members, including Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D-Los Angeles), have been lobbying for increased funds for the park. Their job isn't finished, but the path toward completing the park looks far less rocky now.

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