Southeast : Former Oil Field Purchased for Park

Los Angeles County has moved closer to its goal of turning large swaths of oil fields in Whittier Hills into a wildlife preserve with the recent purchase of 970 acres from Chevron Corp.

The $5.25-million deal, together with a similar 300-acre purchase from Unocal Corp. in October, were crucial to forming a public wilderness corridor to link Whittier and Anaheim, Whittier City Councilman Bob Henderson said.

Money for the land, known as Murphy Ranch, came from an $18-million fund set aside by Proposition A in 1992. Henderson said he doubts that the county bond money will be enough to buy the remaining 2,100 acres, but that other funds may become available.

The deal could lead to environmental mitigation credits for Chevron because 600 acres were donated under the agreement. If Chevron receives approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the company could be allowed to develop up to 600 acres of environmentally sensitive land elsewhere in the state. But Chevron would also have to pay for environmental mitigation on the donated land under any such agreement.

Either way, Henderson said, some of the land needs work after decades of oil drilling, including large sections of roadways that must be replanted.

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