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$29 Million in Park Aquisition Starts Small : Lands: A nine-acre Reseda site is first on the list. Most of the funds will be used to buy 1,850 acres.

September 26, 1993|JULIO MORAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A nine-acre park at the southern end of Reseda Boulevard could become the first visible use of $29 million in parkland acquisition funds released by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week.

Reseda Ridge Park is scheduled to open in the spring, at a cost of $975,000. It will have picnic areas, trails and an outdoor classroom.

But most of the money will be used by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy hundreds of acres of land that will be left undeveloped. The conservancy plans to buy more than 1,850 acres for public use.

The purchases are significant because they will fill gaps in existing parklands and keep the land out of the hands of developers.

"Development is encroaching," said Belinda Faustinos, the conservancy's deputy director. "If we were not able to put this land in public ownership at this time, 10 years from now it would be gone."

The release of the Proposition A funds, approved by voters last November, comes at an ideal time, because the slump in real estate sales has lowered the price on many lots and made some landowners more willing to sell rather than develop the land.

"It has become more economically feasible for many owners to make their money today rather than have to wait for economic conditions to change," Faustinos said. "We have a window of opportunity to be able to preserve much more land."

The conservancy is still negotiating to acquire many of the parcels it hopes to buy. Faustinos said she expects most of the purchases to be completed within a few months.

The three largest parcels are in the west San Fernando Valley, all of which the conservancy plans to leave unimproved.

The largest is the 492-acre Westlake Vista property south of Westlake Village. It includes the watershed of the Las Virgenes Reservoir and an adjacent bowl chocked with spectacular rock formations and meadows that support two state and federally protected plant species.

Farther east, the 419-acre Corbin Canyon property along the Mulholland Scenic Parkway south of Tarzana abuts state parkland on two sides. The purchase would link city-owned Serrania Park with state and conservancy lands. Fire roads and trails cross much of the property, and the tract is a habitat for American badger, mountain lion and mule deer.

The acquisition of the Corbin Canyon land could take two years, Faustinos said. The city has committed $1 million for the purchase.

The most publicized of the new parklands is a parcel of 320 acres that was once the site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. The conservancy had defaulted on payment of the final installment, awaiting the Proposition A funds to complete the purchase of the site south of Agoura. Known as Paramount Ranch Phase II, it will complement the existing Paramount Ranch property, which is owned and managed by the National Park Service.

The area contains some of the largest valley oaks in the Santa Monica Mountains and contains a savannah considered to be important for the foraging needs of numerous birds of prey.

Among the smaller sites, the acquisition of five parcels ranging in size from four acres to 52 acres will allow the conservancy to fill in gaps in parkland in the so-called Mulholland Scenic Parkway, in the Hollywood hills above Sherman Oaks and Studio City.

In the eastern Valley, Faustinos is optimistic that an agreement will be reached for purchase of a 235-acre parcel known as Wilson Canyon in the foothills of the western San Gabriel Mountains above Sylmar.

The conservancy also plans to use about $500,000 in each of the next two years to take over management of El Cariso Regional Park in Sylmar from the county. County officials had to give up managing the park or close it because of budget cuts.

Faustinos said she expects all the park's programs to continue. The conservancy will use some of the facilities to conduct training sessions.

Land to be Acquired by Conservancy

Three largest parcels that will be acquired by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy under Proposition A.

A. WESTLAKE VISTA: A 492-acre parcel south of the Ventura Freeway near Westlake Village that includes watershed of the Las Virgenes Reservoir and an adjacent bowl chocked with spectacular rock formations and meadows which support two state and federally-listed plant species.

B. PARAMOUNT RANCH PHASE II: A 320-acre parcel that abuts the existing Paramount Ranch, and was a former site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. It contains a vast savannah area that is extremely important for the foraging needs of numerous birds of prey.

C. CORBIN CANYON: A 419-acre parcel located along the Mulholland Scenic Parkway in the Santa Monica Mountains above the San Fernando Valley. The area is inhabited by the American badger, mountain lion, and mule deer. Will join a large open-space area known as the "Big Wild."

Source: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

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