By Councilwoman Laurene Weste
Visit one of our open spaces and you’ll understand why, since the incorporation of the city, we have diligently focused on the preservation of our natural, undeveloped lands.
The beauty of our open space is indisputable, yet, the true value in preserving this land far exceeds the gorgeous vistas surrounding our city.
The lands we fight to protect are also rare biological and geological regions — home for our wildlife neighbors such as the bobcat, coyote, toad, condor and turkey vulture.
The open spaces also provide crucial places for wildlife undercrossings, which allow wildlife to cross under the freeway, keeping them out of danger. This promotes a healthy ecosystem and allows the animals to easily migrate between habitats.
Leaving these lands in their natural state also creates property that is available for our community to use now and forever, as it can never be taken away.
It’s important that we provide ample opportunities for our residents to be active and explore the outdoors, helping to keep us mentally and physically healthy.
The city has now preserved nearly 12,000 acres.
This work has been completed through the Open Space Preservation District, which was formed in 2007 after property owners voted in favor of its creation.
The special assessment paid by city property owners gives the city funds to purchase land in its most pristine condition, saving the city’s precious natural resources.
Thanks to this district, within minutes, you can find yourself surrounded by nature and wildlife by visiting one of our open spaces. Our open spaces are free to visit and are easy to access by way of trailheads that provide convenient parking, and in some cases, an information kiosk, water fountains and benches.
In the last two years, the city has been very busy adding to the greenbelt that surrounds Santa Clarita. In 2017, we added 240 more acres to the then 300-acre Newhall Pass Open Space, the entrance to our valley. That 540-acre site was once planned for a major housing, commercial and retail development, which would have included 5,000 homes.
Had the project gone through, it would have severely impacted the Newhall Pass and surrounding area. The Newhall Pass is now protected for our residents and visitors to explore the wilderness with sweeping views of Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley.
On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Catalina Island.
We also recently added the new Taylor Trailhead located adjacent to Towsley Canyon, just off Interstate 5. This is a great place for a peaceful hike through the canyons. Taylor Trailhead offers multi-use trails that meander through 114 acres that was previously slated for 85 homes. Trailhead amenities were added, including a parking lot, fencing and access control gates.
Most recently, we were able to preserve the San Francisquito Open Space located just north of our city boundary. This 176 acres of San Francisquito Open Space serves as a natural wildlife corridor, and it’s home to many important plant and animal species along San Francisquito Creek.
This acquisition allowed the preservation in the historic area that was flooded from the St. Francis Dam disaster, which sent a giant wall of water sweeping through the area in 1928, claiming hundreds of lives.
The San Francisquito Open Space adds five more miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding — with paths connecting to existing L.A. County trails and open areas.
Next on our list is approximately 1,200 acres of open space that has been dedicated to the city through the annexations of Plum Canyon and Skyline Ranch area.
To learn more about these amazing open spaces, whether you’re an equestrian, bicyclist or hiker, you can visit our website at HikeSantaClarita.com, which serves as a one-stop shop for all things open space.
As a former parks commissioner and lifelong nature lover, I feel fortunate to live in a city that cares about preserving natural land for future generations to enjoy. I hope you find some time this year to get in touch with nature, hit the trails and enjoy one of the best places in the United States to live.
Laurene Weste is a Santa Clarita City Council member and can be reached at [email protected]