City dedicates Newhall Pass open space after 30 years of efforts

Hikers make their way up a dirt road in the yet-to-be-named Newhall Pass open space after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Highway 14 is seen to the left, and Interstate 5 to the right. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Open space enthusiasts gathered for the dedication of 240 acres of Newhall Pass open space on Thursday morning.

To celebrate, city council members had a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a two-hour hike along the trails.

A 30-year process in the making, the newly acquired space was once supposed to be made into track housing.

Local dignitaries and their representatives cut the ribbon officially opening a yet-to-be-named open space and hiking trails, right, in the Newhall Pass on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Councilwoman Laurene Weste introduced dignitaries and said the council members were all dedicated supporters of open space.

“I want to welcome you to Santa Clarita’s view of the world,” Weste said. “This is one of the critically vital pieces of open space.”

Efforts to maintain the space was a partnership with all levels of government, according to Weste.

“It has taken a village, a city, a county, a state and 30 years,” she said.

To Becky Bremser, the project manager from the Trust for Public Land, the event was a culmination of years of work that had finally come to fruition.

“I am really proud to see this be a success because it was so many years in the making,” Bremser said. “It is the icing on the cake.”

Cars and trucks move south and northbound on Interstate 5 through the Newhall Pass. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

City Parks Commissioner Kieran Wong said he was excited to see the space get dedicated and looked forward to using it himself.

“Our community has a unique opportunity to do things to increase the quality and quantity of open space,” Wong said.

Frank Hoffman, parks supervisor at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, said he was happy to celebrate the event alongside his friends at the city.

Particularly, he appreciated the wildlife corridor provided by the preservation of the open space.

“The community, the city and the council worked hard on this,” Hoffman said. “I’m very happy to be here to be a part of the effort with the community.”

For Melissa McHaddad, the event was bittersweet. Her grandfather was the owner of the land and her father later managed it, so she grew up tending it and working on it.

Different parts of the land hold different memories for her family, she said. She planted the trees at the bottom of the trail when she was younger and she said her dad proposed to her mom on the top of the hill.

“I was basically working this land since I was three,” McHaddad said. “I hope other people can come enjoy it.”

Traffic moves north and south at the Highway 14 and Interstate 5 connector in the Newhall Pass. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Tori Kjer, the Los Angeles Project Director for the Trust for Public Land, said the Newhall Pass Open Space is a clear example of the organization’s mission.

“What we’re looking at is an investment in our future,” Kjer said. “It took vision and tenacity and we’re here, but we’ve still got work to do.”

According to the project director, it was the community’s vision and care for open space that made it possible to retain the land.

It is the Trust for Public Land’s goal to have park space within 10 minutes walking distance of every person’s home, she said. For this to happen, according to Kjer, it will require continued state funding from the Senate and Assembly.

Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board John Donnelly echoed this and said attaining open space requires bond measures to be passed.

“Without park bond measures, we could not do the work we do,” Donnelly said. “Keep that in mind at the polls.”

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