Kids sledding, building snowmen and having snowball fights is not a common sight in the Santa Clarita Valley, but it was the scene at the Winter Wonderland Experience at Val Verde Park on Saturday.
About 80 tons of snow was brought in to create the illusion of a fresh blanket – but most didn’t care where it came from. They were just happy it was there. The event was part of a county-wide effort called “Parks After Dark.” This particular event brought snow to 34 parks across L.A. County, including Val Verde.
Larry Muepo, Los Angeles County park supervisor, said the wonderland experience at Val Verde aimed to bring a sense of unity within the SCV and to break the image of fragmentation by including unincorporated areas into county events.
“Most of the time, Val Verde is considered an isolated, independent community. And so what the county is trying to do is break that idea,” said Muepo. “Break that idea of, there’s Newhall, there’s Santa Clarita, there’s Castaic, there’s Copper Hill, etc. We’re trying to do an overall emphasis on having more events that benefit the entire community.”
The event’s primary funding came from the county Board of Supervisors, particularly the office of 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and was done in coordination with the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation. Muepo said the supervisors had a concern that communities, especially in unincorporated areas of L.A. County, were having trouble restarting communal events following the pandemic.
Muepo said another aim of the wonderland event was to let these communities know there’s a safe way to bring back a sense of community and culture. During the pandemic, Parks and Recreation had tight regulations on the types of events they could hold and were restricted to things like food drives and distribution.
“Now that COVID has become more mitigated, the department has decided to do more widespread events,” said Muepo. “Even though we do recognize the threat of COVID… we’re trying to get people to get used to being in groups together. So we’re making sure that the adequate safety protocol has been in place, and we’re also trying to encourage people to come back and do more community events.”
A sense of community and culture is crucial to reforming any sense of local provinciality or division that happened during the pandemic. Muepo said he, and the county, hopes events like these can do that.
“There’s been a lot of fragmentation and a lot of provincial mentality,” said Muepo. “So we’re trying to get people to move beyond that, to save that for the voting booth. This is under the auspices of Kathryn Barger, so this is open to the entire community, not just the people in this area.”
Sara Bolokofsky, an attendee there with her two children, said she’d like to see the county continue doing these types of events and said this one in particular exposed her to a community she wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
“I’m new to the area really. I’ve only lived here for a little over a year,” said Bolokofsky. “I didn’t know this was even here. It’s kind of nice, kind of fun to drive through the area. There’s a lot of nature around the houses.”