Editorials: Public opinion matters for seminal moment

Nothing quite says "boring" like a federal land use study for an amorphous "Rim of the Valley." But the upcoming series of public input meetings will be a vital gauge for federal parks officials, who will eventually make a recommendation on whether to fold more than 500,000 acres into the National Park system.

That would mean much of land above the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo valleys — collectively known as the Rim of the Valley — would be protected from most development, much like the Santa Monica National Recreation Area.

It would be a seminal moment in that the designation would be forever, a permanent set-in-stone decision impacting generations ahead of us. It shouldn't be taken lightly, or dismissed as some bureaucratic process. It's not often that a group of communities has a hand in deciding the fate of such a large chunk of land for decades to come.

At 154,095 acres, the Santa Monica National Recreation Area is the largest urban national park in the U.S., with a coalition of federal, state and local agencies and foundations charged with its ownership and maintenance. So even if half of the Rim was put under federal protection, it would still be roughly a third larger, and certainly make the interface between Los Angeles and Ventura counties a giant in terms of land preservation.

But inherent in this discussion is not only protection from development, but the cost of taking on such a large area for maintenance. Public access would have to be provided, patrols, etc. Again, forever.

These are all things the public needs to weigh, and make their opinions heard at such a crucial juncture. Federal officials can only base their recommendations on a number of criteria, and public sentiment is a big one.

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