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Closed by Storms in 1998, Connector Road Reopens

Balcom Canyon stretch, which links Moorpark and the Santa Clara River Valley, is now safer but still curvy, officials say.

November 26, 2002|Massie Ritsch | Times Staff Writer

A key connector between Moorpark and the Santa Clara River Valley reopened Monday, nearly five years after El Nino storms washed part of it away.

The redesigned three-mile stretch of Balcom Canyon Road cost nearly $3 million. Most of the funding came in the form of disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In February 1998, mudslides and the collapse of 200 feet of road forced the Balcom Canyon connector to close. About 2,000 motorists traveled the winding, two-lane road daily before its shutdown.

Designing the new road, securing federal funding and getting environmental permits took about 18 months. Bulldozers graded steep hills and flattened mountaintops to prevent future landslides. High winds and pesky yellow jackets caused further delays.

The new road is safer, thanks to wider shoulders, guardrails and reflective lane markers, said Butch Britt, Ventura County's deputy director of public works. But the road is still curvy. Drivers are advised not to travel faster than 25 mph.

"Don't use this for a raceway," said county Supervisor Kathy Long, who joined Supervisor Judy Mikels on Monday to reopen the road.

To the east, Grimes Canyon Road is the more popular connector between Moorpark and the Santa Clara River Valley. For emergencies, Mikels said, it's good to have Balcom Canyon back in service.

At its highest point, Balcom Canyon Road offers a sweeping view of the surrounding mountains, the valley and citrus groves.

The canyon had been a popular dumping ground for old and stolen cars. The road's new design should discourage that, Britt said.

During the reconstruction, residents along Balcom Canyon Road had enjoyed the absence of speeding traffic, but missed the convenience the road had allowed.

"It was so wonderfully peaceful and quiet," said Patricia Caldwell, one of several ranch owners along Balcom Canyon. When the road closed, Caldwell and her husband practically stopped going to a favorite restaurant in Santa Paula once they couldn't get over the hill easily.

With the reopening, "the old familiar place will once again see our faces," she said.

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