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National Park Service Acquires Circle X Ranch

Times Staff Writer

In a ceremony punctuated by bagpipe music and blue skies, a state parks agency turned over 2,434 acres of Santa Monica Mountains parkland to the National Park Service on Monday.

The cornerstone of the $11-million land sale by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was the site of the ceremony, the 1,655-acre Circle X Ranch in southeast Ventura County. The ranch and 779 acres in Zuma Canyon were added to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Sandstone Peak, part of the ranch and the highest point in the Santa Monicas, loomed in the background as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Democratic and Republican members of Congress praised the conservancy and the Park Service for preserving the land and the national park.

The park has received about $91 million of the $150 million in land-purchasing funds envisioned by the 1978 law that created it, partly because some in Congress have been skeptical about whether a true wilderness park could be created in a sprawling urban area such as Los Angeles.

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“One look at this property should put to rest all of those doubts,” Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Tarzana), author of the 1978 law, told a crowd of about 175. “It gives the Santa Monicas the look and feel of a real national park. That’s important from a political perspective.”

The $11 million represented all of the money Congress appropriated to the Park Service for the Santa Monicas in the 1989 budget year.

“There is an amazing grace to this lovely area,” said U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), after bagpiper Jim Sanderson of Long Beach played the song “Amazing Grace.”

The Circle X Ranch becomes the first overnight campground in the national park.

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The land in Zuma Canyon adds to existing federal parkland there, bringing to 1,500 the number of public acres--including hiking and horse trails--in the coastal canyon. With the latest acquisitions, the national park has about 16,000 acres of federal land from the Hollywood Freeway to Point Mugu.

Agoura Development

The dedication came less than a week after the park sustained a setback from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which approved a 150-home development Thursday on land in Agoura that park officials had coveted.

Although conservancy officials said they have not yet given up on acquiring the property, Conservancy Executive Director Joseph T. Edmiston said: “If there ever was a need to show that the park is not moribund as a result of the supervisors’ action, today was a demonstration of that.”

The state law that created the conservancy to manage parkland until the federal government can take it over is scheduled to expire in July, 1990. State Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles) is expected to introduce a bill this week to extend the life of the conservancy until the end of 1994, a Rosenthal aide said Monday.


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