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Land Swap Expands a Paradise for Climbers, Nature Lovers

For years, Kimberly Mullin gazed upon the stretch of hilly, boulder-strewn land longingly, but didn’t dare wander in.

“I’ve seen the area my whole life, since I was a little kid,” the West Hills woman, now 43, said of the rocky terrain nestled between Stoney Point Park and the Ronald Reagan Freeway.

Not only had she heard that it was private property, she also had seen the barbed-wire fence.

“Something that beautiful shouldn’t be kept from the public,” she said while out walking her dog, Moose, one recent afternoon.

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Although it is still in private hands, the 54-acre area just north of Stoney Point will be open to the public in a matter of months when it becomes city property, officials said.

In a move applauded by nature lovers and conservationists, the Los Angeles City Council last week unanimously approved a deal that would make the parcel part of Stoney Point Park.

The landowner, Valley Christian Presbyterian Church in Arleta, agreed to give it to the city in exchange for about 11 acres of city-owned land in Northridge and $2.8 million in Proposition A bond money.

“It was a prime piece of property that had not been developed,” said James Ward, park superintendent for the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, surveying the placid scene of horse trails, dense shrubbery and occasional boulders that starts at Topanga Canyon Boulevard. “This now allows it to remain forever in its natural state.”

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The land swap was the culmination of years of planning and negotiations between the church and the city.

“The entire area is one of the most unusual rock formations you’ll see anywhere,” said City Councilman Hal Bernson, who had worked toward acquiring the land for nearly six years. “It was something that needed to be preserved.”

The deal will more than triple the size of the 22-acre park--long a favorite destination among rock climbers and rappellers--and will help preserve a piece of wilderness that nature lovers and city officials say is reminiscent of early California.

Fragrant with sumac and sage shrubs, the land is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels and raccoons.

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