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Officials Dedicate New Mountain Park in Santa Monicas

Environment: Planners say most of the 81-acre preserve in Calabasas will be left in its natural state.

April 21, 2001|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An 81-acre parcel jointly purchased by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the city of Calabasas was dedicated on Friday as Dry Creek Canyon Park.

The property, which lies south of Mulholland Highway and east of Old Topanga Canyon Road, is lush with oak and black walnut trees covering rolling hills.

Area residents and city officials said wildlife such as mountain lions, deer and an array of birds live on the land, which was once proposed for home development.

Instead, it was purchased in December for $1 million, with the conservancy paying two-thirds and Calabasas the balance. The conservancy used funds from Proposition 12, the largest parks bond in U.S. history, approved by voters last year.

Calabasas dipped into a $500,000 general fund it had devoted to open space and park expansion, said Lesley Devine, councilwoman and mayor pro tem.

"We have preserved a major transition area between suburban and rural lifestyles," Devine said.

About eight acres of the property will be used by Calabasas as a park, perhaps with picnic tables and playground equipment, Devine said. A community meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, will help determine how Calabasas will develop that area.

Most of the land will be retained in its natural state for hikers, equestrians and other uses, officials said. The parcel represents one part of a 640-acre proposed land acquisition that has been on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy's wish list since 1993, said Paul Edelman, chief of planning and natural resources for the conservancy.

"It's part of the Los Angeles River Master Plan to develop natural areas along the entire length of the river [and its watershed]," he said.

A group of about 50 people, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, attended the dedication ceremony hosted by Emmy award-winning actor Joe Spano, best known for his work in the popular "Hill Street Blues" television series.

Spano lives in the area and thanked the city and conservancy for acquiring the precious land that he called "my favorite street corner in Calabasas.

"I used to live in Venice and moved here because I wanted more open space, where it is still wild and it's dark at night," Spano said.

Chumash elder Charlie Cooke blessed the land with white sage after blowing a conch shell in four directions to bring in the spirits.

"I drive by here every day and I'm so glad it's going to remain lush and rural," said Nancy Helsley, who lives a few miles from the new park.

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