Marsha McLean | High-Speed Rail and Our Open Space

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Even though it seems to have faded from the headlines… the California High-Speed Rail Project is not dead. For those of you not familiar with the plan, the long-term goal of the project is supposedly to build a bullet train line connecting San Francisco to the Los Angeles Basin in under three hours – clocking speeds at over 200 mph.  

I have always been a staunch supporter of public transportation, and although I am in favor of creating new opportunities, my first priority is protecting the quality of life we all enjoy in the city of Santa Clarita. 

Which is why I want to share with you how this project could impact our community, and in particular, the city’s newest parcel of open space – the long-sought-after 208 acres of Bee Canyon on the eastern side of the city.  

The project recently released the draft environmental impact report for the Palmdale to Burbank segment. The California High Speed-Rail Authority’s Preferred Alternative alignment proposes to bifurcate Bee Canyon, at-grade. To put that simply, they want to build train tracks for this new bullet train, directly through our preserved open space at ground level. This would have a devastating effect on our native wildlife and its ability to move throughout our open space.  

Back in 2015, the Santa Clarita City Council adopted a position to only support a fully underground alignment for the Palmdale to Burbank segment. This would allow natural wildlife corridors to remain untouched and for residents to be able to enjoy our beautiful open space without trains barreling through at high speeds, destroying any chance for a viable wildlife corridor or any chance for future generations to enjoy Bee Canyon.     

The completely underground alternative, which would be doable with a commitment by the hierarchy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, would allow the project to transport passengers safely through an underground tunnel. 

In a recent comment letter from the city addressing the draft EIR, we requested that the EIR include the potential impacts the construction and operation of the project would have on recreational uses and wildlife corridors within the Bee Canyon Open Space and the viable mitigation of a completely underground segment.    

Santa Clarita has always sought to protect the treasured open space that surrounds our city and is evidenced by the city’s very first ordinance, which was adopted to protect our cherished, iconic oak trees.  Our hard work to maintain our open space for future generations cannot be left to chance.   

I encourage all of you to visit Bee Canyon. It is located on the eastern side of the city off Soledad Canyon Road. To visit, take Soledad Canyon Road east. Once you cross under Highway 14, it will be your third left turn, approximately 1.2 miles past the freeway. There you will see a picturesque landscape of native wildflowers, meandering hiking trails and breathtaking vistas. You’ll catch glimpses of the wildlife that has made this canyon its home for decades. While you’re there, take a second to reflect on the quiet serenity of nature, and then think how a bullet train cutting right through the open space would alter that scene permanently.  

Even though the official comment period has ended, the fight to preserve Bee Canyon is not over.  If you are interested in weighing in on the California High-Speed Rail Project, please visit hsr.ca.gov and keep an eye out for future public meetings regarding this project. 

Marsha McLean is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]. 

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