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C'mon, Can't You Take a Joke! : Santa Clarita: Prankish city officials stage mock grand opening of proposed Elsmere Canyon dump, featuring a celebrity garbage raffle and a rotten-fruit buffet.

April 02, 1993|JONATHAN GAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a grim gag, and the city of Santa Clarita meant it that way.

Armed with protest signs and surgical masks, then taking on a "but seriously, folks" demeanor, city officials Thursday held a mock grand opening of the much-loathed Elsmere Canyon dump on the eastern border of the city.

The April Fools' Day caper designed to "get the word out locally, as well as over the hill" about the proposed dump drew about 100 people, city spokeswoman Gail Foy said.

The $3,000 event--complete with placard-waving protesters, an aqua-blue dump truck and a food table decked out with apple cores, banana peels and orange rinds--was part of the city's $100,000 media plan to draw attention to the proposed dump.

In several days of newspaper advertisements, the city, with its tongue firmly in cheek, invited residents to "watch a beautiful canyon become California's largest dump." A mock celebrity garbage raffle included a used pregnancy test and dental floss allegedly from such personalities as Roseanne Arnold and Jack Nicholson.

Local artists who set up easels at the edge of the landfill site, however, were very serious in their depictions of the canyon. "We are here to point out that Elsmere Canyon is beautiful, that it's beautiful enough to paint," said Bobbie Raybin, an art teacher at Art Works in Newhall.

Kenneth B. Kazarian, president of BKK Corp., which hopes to build the landfill, said the "silly event" would backfire on city officials who, he said, had spread misinformation about the proposal.

"I think the biggest April Fools' joke was played on the taxpayers of Santa Clarita," Kazarian said. "It's going to backfire on them."

Opponents of the dump say Elsmere Canyon contains endangered wildlife, green rolling hills and picturesque waterfalls.

BKK officials see the proposed landfill site as an ordinary gully where oil seeps out from the ground and power lines crisscross overhead.

A federal environmental review of the plan is due in the fall.

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