Davis-Sponsored Resolution Advances : Senate Panel Backs Study for Woodlands Park

Times Staff Writer

A state Senate committee approved a resolution Tuesday that asks park officials to study whether a state park should be created from 6,000 heavily wooded acres known as the Santa Clarita Woodlands.

The resolution by state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) passed the Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee without opposition after supporters described the woodlands as a lush paradise that must be protected from a crush of nearby development.

“It’s really a spectacular thing that should be preserved,” Davis said of the mountainous woodlands that separate Porter Ranch and the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We’ve got bears, Bambis and springs. . . . This is not normal for Los Angeles County,” Laurene Frimel Weste, a parks commissioner for the city of Santa Clarita, told the committee.


The resolution, which is formally a request but effectively a directive, asks the state Department of Parks and Recreation to file a report with the Legislature on the feasibility of the park by mid-1990.

Forwarded to Committee

The measure was forwarded to the Senate Appropriations Committee along with a second bill by Davis that would include the woodlands in the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor.

As part of that corridor of trails and parks on the northern flank of the San Fernando Valley, the woodlands would be eligible for funding from Proposition 70, a $776-million statewide bond measure for parks approved by voters in 1988. The proposition sets aside $10 million for Rim of the Valley purchases.


State park officials announced two weeks ago that they plan to spend about half of the $10 million to buy 400 acres in the Santa Susana Pass west of Chatsworth for inclusion in a state park. Their decision was an apparent setback for supporters of the woodlands since it was made after a preliminary study of both areas.

However, Kenneth W. Collier, project manager for the parks department, said at Tuesday’s hearing that the early study showed that the woodlands area “has possibilities as a unit of the state park system.”

When Davis asked Collier if he was “as enthusiastic about this as we are,” the parks official said he does not get “overly enthusiastic on first look” at any proposal. There always is keen competition for state funds for new parklands.

Supporters of a Santa Clarita Woodlands park said its creation seems a good bet since, unlike many park proposals, this one has strong support from Republicans as well as Democrats.

“The key thing is the strong Republican support,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state-supported agency that buys parkland in the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountains.

Even if the parks system decides that the state cannot afford a new 6,000-acre park that it estimates would cost at least $24 million, the city of Santa Clarita and the conservancy would try to purchase the land, officials said in interviews.

“This is the only opportunity we have to create a park for the 21st Century,” said Weste, the Santa Clarita parks commissioner.

The conservancy will receive the uncommitted $5 million from the Rim of the Valley bond appropriation. And Edmiston said some of that will be spent to buy woodlands acreage.


Other Accounts

In addition, Edmiston said the conservancy could draw on other accounts to buy options on parcels in the area before they are sold for development or prices increase. Purchases could be completed over several years with expenditures of perhaps $3 million to $4 million annually. Contacts have already been made with several of the 30 landowners in the area, he said.

“This offers an opportunity to get even more beautiful land than in Malibu at bargain-basement prices,” Edmiston said. “We’re making a commitment in advance of the parks study.”

Edmiston acknowledged that the owner of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill, for which an expansion is planned on several hundred acres within the boundaries of the proposed park, would not be eager to sell. That land might have to be excluded from consideration, he said.

The conservancy is interested in the woodlands because of the “big-tree, Northern California feeling” that pine, maple, ash and oak trees up to 40 feet tall give the area, Edmiston said. Such wildlife as black bears, bobcats, badgers, coyotes and deer also live there, he said.

“There is no doubt about this being an ecologically significant area,” he said.