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392 Acres Bought for Park

Land: The parcels bordering Mulholland Drive offer excellent views of the Valley and provide easy access to trails, officials say.


The state has purchased 392 acres just east of Topanga Canyon, on both sides of the eight-mile unpaved stretch of Mulholland Drive known locally as "Dirt Mulholland," officials said Thursday.

The tracts, on the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, offer sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley and give more than 1 million people new, easy access to mountain trails, officials said.

"Los Angeles, along with Miami, is one of the park-poorest communities or metropolitan areas in this country," Rusty Areias, state parks director, said in a telephone interview announcing the purchases.

He noted that the newly acquired land is close to densely populated neighborhoods: a mile from Topanga Canyon Boulevard and three miles from the Ventura Freeway.

"In this area, there are a lot of people who don't have front porches and backyards. For those people . . . this is a great day."

The $14.5-million purchases, paid for mostly out of the $2.1-billion parks bond issue approved by voters last year, are a joint project of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

They are intended to preserve the acreage previously owned by developers as protected, open space.

In a statement, Gov. Gray Davis said the acquisition of the parcels, which he called the "Mulholland Gateway," was "exactly what the people of California envisioned when they approved Propositions 12 and 13 last year."

He spoke of his commitment to preserving parkland, and said the state had spent $222 million to buy 3,211 acres of urban parkland in the Los Angeles area in the last three years. "For too long in California, we neglected our parks, especially in our urban centers," Davis said.

The newly acquired land is covered with oak and walnut trees as well as coastal sage scrub.

Stretching the 20,000-acre expanse known as "Big Wild" to the floor of the San Fernando Valley, the new state land will serve as a gateway for West Valley residents to the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains, said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

"We haven't had that. There's not been a place where you could go, pull up your car and get out on a trail," said Edmiston, who described the space as "backyard wilderness."

One parcel--68 acres just south of Dirt Mulholland--had been scheduled for a development of luxury houses.

The area abutting the unpaved drive had already been graded, said Edmiston. That makes it perfect for putting in a parking area, restrooms and trails that are accessible to the disabled, he said.

"That's been sadly lacking," Edmiston said. "There's plenty of space for people to mountain bike. If you want to show that you're an iron man or an iron woman, there's plenty of places you can go in the mountains. But we haven't had enough handicapped-accessible trails, or trails for people who don't have calves like Sierra Club hikers."

The state bought the 68 acres from EPAC Woodland Hills Partners LLC. The rest of the land--a 324-acre acre plot north of Mulholland Drive--was sold to the state by Mulholland Hills Associates.

The 324-acre site was the last remaining significant chunk of undeveloped private land in Corbin, Chapter and Natoma canyons.

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