Without warning, the Los Angeles County Public Works Department this week shut down Bouquet Canyon Road for six months, leaving residents in the canyon cut off from schools, work and shopping.
Why was this drastic action taken? Because it might rain.
Yes, during this period of extended drought, for an entire half year, the thoroughfare between the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, the sole reasonable access to town for at least 100 residents and a longtime local business, will sit idle because of the possibility of precipitation.
No, you haven’t stepped through the looking glass; the Mad Hatter isn’t running Public Works, though the absurdity is unavoidable.
Also unavoidable is the pain inflicted on Bouquet Canyon residents and a local business by this preposterous decision.
Monica Ferguson lives up Bouquet Canyon Road with her four children, two of whom have special needs. Those children have been bused to school at Saugus High – until this week, when Public Works shut down the road because it might rain.
Now the school district is sending out home-schooling curricula for Ferguson’s kids because those youngsters can’t get to the school campus a few miles away.
“It’s insane,” Ferguson said in an interview with The Signal. “What were they thinking? They gave us no warning.”
Canyon resident Richard Knox’s commute hasn’t only expanded in duration and distance, but he is now forced to take Spunky Canyon Road to get around the closed section of Bouquet.
Spunky Canyon offers motorists a treacherous climb over rugged territory with no nighttime lighting. It’s a street better suited for daytime off-roaders than commuters whose jobs keep them after winter darkness.
“There are 400-foot falls,” said Knox.
Public Works’ priority is to keep him safe from the potential hazard of flooding on Bouquet Canyon Road. Not that more-rugged Spunky Canyon Road would be any safer in the rain.
The Big Oaks Lodge, Bouquet Canyon’s beloved long-running restaurant, had scheduled its 4th annual Big Oaks Lodge Toy Run on Nov. 12. Now, rather than joyfully collecting toys and food for clients of Single Mothers Outreach, the business is looking at the possibility of going broke.
“Our customers can’t get to us because of the road closure,” lodge manager Joi Morrice told The Signal.
The hardship extends beyond canyon residents and its business.
With Bouquet Canyon out of the picture, north-south roads between Interstate 5 and Highway 14 number just two: Lake Hughes and San Francisquito Canyon roads.
Those serve small communities north of Santa Clarita including Leona Valley, Green Valley, Elizabeth Lake, Lake Hughes, Three Points and Neenach.
The communities now have one fewer road to connect them southward. All because it might rain.
Other regional canyon roads prone to flooding and managed by the county include Little Tujunga Canyon Road, Angeles Forest Highway and Lake Hughes Road. Those are shut down when storms are forecast, not for half a year.
Bouquet Canyon Road should be treated the same way.
Assuming this isn’t Wonderland, one can only conclude the ham-handed decision to close Bouquet was prompted by Public Works ignorance of the communities thriving north of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Whatever the reason, though, the decision needs to be reversed as soon as possible. It clearly invites lawsuits, and the county sees enough of those without depriving residents of access to their homes and businesses.
We turn to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who has served this valley so well for so long. We ask him to take a little time away from his state Senate campaign to unite supervisors in a call for Public Works to re-open Bouquet Canyon Road as soon as possible.
Let common sense prevail.
Let the 4th annual Big Oaks Lodge Toy Run go on as planned – if it doesn’t rain. Let Monica Ferguson’s kids go back to school – at least when the road is dry.
We bet that will be the majority of days during the next six months.