County OKs Studies for Off-Road Vehicle Park

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved spending $233,690 to conduct final studies for a controversial park for off-road vehicles in the Santa Clarita Valley.

A master plan and an environmental impact report will be prepared for the proposed 606-acre park in the rugged Whitney Canyon.

The site is two miles north of the Antelope Valley and Golden State freeway interchange, which is in a sparsely populated area. But the proposed park site is not remote enough for two prominent neighbors--the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and a Walt Disney Co. film location ranch.

Members of a group that lends support to the county-operated nature center said they are heartsick about the proposal, which they said would destroy one of the last remaining oak woodlands in Southern California and increase off-road vandalism in the nature center. Disney executives have expressed concern that the noise from the park would jeopardize filming at the Golden Oak Ranch, county officials said.


“We are very disheartened,” said Linda Larsen, president of Placerita Nature Center Associates, which has vowed to continue to fight the proposal.

Bill Kerstetter, executive vice president at Walt Disney Studios, said Disney’s sound tests indicate that the park and the film ranch could not coexist.

“It’s clear to us, with tests we have run, the type of activity that could normally be expected in that off-road vehicle park would render the use of highly sensitive sound equipment for motion pictures and television almost pointless,” he said.

Acknowledging the opposition, Jo Anne Darcy, field deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said that the proposed $17-million vehicle park, to be funded by the state, would be scrapped if it proves environmentally hazardous.

Property Owner’s Blow

“I think the key in this whole issue is just because the county approved going after the grant money, doesn’t mean it’s a fait accompli ,” she said.

The project might have received its biggest blow from the property’s owner. On Tuesday, Darcy said that Jack Albert told her he was surprised to learn that the county wants his land for an off-road park. Darcy quoted Albert as saying he is not interested in selling.

Albert could not be reached for comment.

Riders of dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles have been clamoring for a new place to ride since the only park in the area, Indian Dunes Park, was closed in 1984. County parks officials have said that establishing a new park is imperative because many off-road enthusiasts now ride illegally in other areas, causing police, fire and noise problems.

Two years ago, angry homeowners protested when the county proposed using two sites in the Agua Dulce area as parks for off-road vehicles. Residents argued that the parks would be noisy, environmentally destructive and a traffic nuisance.

The two sites, which were ultimately rejected, had been among about 50 potential spots selected by Los Angeles County’s Off-Highway Vehicle Committee.

The county then selected Whitney Canyon and Rowher Flat in the Angeles National Forest for consideration. The county explored enlarging Rowher Flat, which is already designated as an off-road vehicle site, but concluded that U.S. Forest Service regulations would preclude a major expansion.

The canyon park would include eight miles of riding trails, two 20-acre motocross tracks, an amphitheater for club meetings and parking for 1,000 vehicles, said Clyde H. Von Rosenberg, a county parks planning assistant. The park’s trails would be linked to the off-road trails in the Angeles National Forest. The county would prefer that a private concessionaire operate the facility.

The environmental study will take seven months to finish, officials said. The earliest the park could be completed, if approved by the supervisors, is the summer of 1991, they said.