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Park Service Acquires 38 Acres in Mountains

October 20, 1998

Adding another square to a patchwork quilt of public parkland, the National Park Service and other government agencies have acquired Rancho Estates, a 38-acre wilderness expanse in the Santa Monica Mountains.

After bringing in bulldozers to begin grading the property last year, owner Tom Steers shifted course and agreed to a price below the land's appraised value of $1.7 million.

The $970,000 deal announced Monday, a compromise between Steers and federal, state, county and city agencies that pooled resources to buy the land, will preserve the rippled hillsides adjacent to the northwest corner of Topanga State Park.

"Money isn't everything," Steers said as conservationists clustered around him after a news conference about the deal.

Steers, 69, said he fell in love with the rugged hills in 1953 after he returned from the Korean War.

Thousands of years ago, the land was home to Chumash Indians. More recently it provided a haven where Steers wooed his wife and took his four children camping. For 40 years, he planned to develop the land and retire there but, he said, development proved to be too impractical and time-consuming.

"This land belongs to nature," Steers said. "It belongs to God, and it belongs to those inhabitants . . . who will take care of it."

Accessible only by the unpaved section of Mulholland Drive, the Steers property is considered a vital link between Topanga State Park and Mulholland Gateway Park to the northwest.

The Park Service plans to build a trail through the Steers land, connecting Mulholland Gateway Park and the Garapito Canyon Trail in Topanga State Park, which joins the 70-mile Backbone Trail less than a mile to the south.

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