Lancaster has taken the first step toward creating a 30-acre Joshua tree preserve on the city's west side by purchasing 22.5 acres from a developer for $1.1 million, city officials said Thursday.
In coming months, the city plans to fence the land bought from developer Joseph Rivani. The city also hopes to install some parking and buy the remaining 7.5 acres from three other owners, city Parks Director Lyle Norton said.
The funding for that work hinges on a $1-million parks mitigation fee that city officials expect to receive from the state, part of the agreement with the city under which the state is building a 2,200-bed prison nearby. The Joshua preserve, near 50th Street West and Avenue K, was suggested by Councilman Bill Pursley.
The city plans to leave the area in its natural state, except for building some trails. Under the agreement, the city paid $375,000 to Rivani and assumed responsibility for his loans, which will be paid off as funding becomes available.
Lancaster and Palmdale have been criticized in recent years for permitting developers to cut down thousands of Joshua trees--the trademark vegetation of the high desert--to make way for houses. Palmdale is nearing final action on a citywide preservation law.