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County to Raise Fees to Keep Park Running

Supervisors are expected to approve the increases at Castaic Lake as a short-term solution.

September 20, 2003|Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

A motion that would keep Castaic Lake State Recreation Area open until the state could work out a long-term solution is expected to be approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and also supported by Supervisor Don Knabe, calls for fee increases at the recreation spot north of Santa Clarita to offset operating costs.

A $1 increase has been proposed for off-season entry, along with a $2 increase for peak-season entry. Entrance to the lake currently costs $6 year-round. Hikes in the cost of annual and boat launch passes -- to $120 from $80 and $90 respectively -- have also been proposed.

"Don thinks [the lake's] an important resource and we need to keep it open," said John Musella, Knabe's press deputy. "We received hundreds of e-mails and letters from people all over the county who use that lake for recreation."

A state Senate bill, SB 1043, which would have allocated $900,000 for the lake and set up a task force to plan future operation, failed to make it to the Assembly floor for a vote before the Legislature recessed last week.

"Supervisors Antonovich and Burke are co-sponsoring a motion to keep the lake open until the state Legislature is back in session," Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell said. "We can proceed with plans to create a joint effort with the state to secure permanent funding for Castaic Lake."

The Legislature will not reconvene until January, but Gov. Gray Davis has asked for a special session to extend the Dec. 31 expiration date for Megan's Law, which requires registered sex offenders to disclose their whereabouts.

If the special session is held, there would be a push to have the Castaic Lake bill considered, Bell said.

While officially a state park, Castaic Lake has been run by the county since 1969, when the county signed a 50-year operating contract.

County parks officials, facing a $4-million budget shortfall, decided earlier this year to turn the 11,000-acre park back over to the state. In August, the state attorney general's office threatened to sue for breach of contract and in early September, county supervisors approved a motion to fund the lake through Oct. 1.

A public hearing on the proposed fee hikes will be held Tuesday before the supervisors make their decision.

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