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Good News for Chino Hills Park

The Chino Hills State Park, which opened three years ago after nearly a decade of local effort, is located within a two-hour drive of nearly half of the state’s population. Does the fact that only hundreds of the millions of people around Chino Hills use the park every week mean that it is a failure? Not at all. That was the plan.

The unique park site is an island oasis of nearly 10,000 acres of scenic, unspoiled land surrounded by the urban traffic and development of four counties: Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino.

The park’s development plan gives top priority to acquiring and preserving land for future generations rather than providing extensive recreational facilities. That’s how it started and that’s how it must continue if the pristine and irreplaceable acreage in the area is to be spared the assaults of builders and bulldozers intent on turning it into parking lots and corner shopping centers.

That’s why it was heartening to see the state Parks and Recreation Commission, which recently met in Brea, unanimously approve the acquisition of about 3,000 more acres of open space for the park. The first acquisition that went before the Legislature five years ago was for 2,000 acres. The ultimate goal is 13,500 acres, most of which will remain in its pristine state to preserve open space, isolate its visitors from urbanization and protect its rare or endangered plant and animal life.

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Also significant was the commission’s approval last week of a development plan that will add toilets, campsites, picnic grounds and equestrian facilities and improve the park’s system of trails. That action ultimately will open the park to the millions of nearby residents, giving them a quick escape from the crowds and congestion to quiet canyons and peaceful green hills.

Those facilities, however, are still several years away, and the money for them, and the new land, must be included in the state budget. But Chino Hills, which is the largest urban park in the state, has survived budget constraints before as legislators and two governors saw the need and wisdom of preserving the area’s wildlife and old ranch atmosphere for posterity. They must continue that support now that the goal is so close to reality.


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