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Our View: Congrats, Elsmere Canyon champions

The Signal Editorial Board

Posted: November 11, 2010 7:43 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Today’s dedication of Elsmere Canyon as part of Santa Clarita’s greenbelt of preserved wilderness marks a milestone of achievement.

The canyon, purchased by the city with some funding help from Los Angeles County and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, represents 842 acres added to the circle of land that will set boundaries to the city and add miles of hiking trails and other opportunities for outdoor enjoyment for generations to come.

A major achievement, to be sure. And a tribute to farsighted landowners who agreed to shell out some of their hard-earned money to make that investment.

Elsmere Canyon’s dedication as open space also preserves an important wilderness corridor between the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. And its addition to the greenbelt will help complete the Rim of the Valley Trail.

But the dedication is more than any of those things. It’s a tribute to Santa Clarita Valley residents of 20 years ago who wouldn’t accept “It’s a done deal” for a proposal that would locate the world’s largest trash dump in our valley.

The proposed Elsmere Canyon landfill would have covered 1,500 acres of a pristine canyon just east of Highway 14 at Newhall Avenue.

The dump was to accept 190 million tons of garbage over its 50-year lifespan and would produce an eyesore visible, when completed, throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

The plan, like another that called for a toxic waste dump near the Santa Clara River, reflected a mid-20th century attitude that held the Santa Clarita Valley was the perfect disposal site for all things originating in Los Angeles and environs that smelled or were otherwise undesirable.

Los Angeles needed a new dump — the matter had reached a crisis mode. As usual, the Santa Clarita Valley was the perfect solution.

So the reasoning went in the 1980s when BKK Corp. proposed the Elsmere Canyon landfill.

The U.S. Forest Service bought into the plan. So did the county. Los Angeles city officials waged a brief battle for the property in a bid to ensure BKK’s ugly vision.

Even the fledgling Santa Clarita City Council didn’t oppose the “done deal” at first.

But in the late 1980s, local residents were rallied to the cause. Demonstrations were organized, with entire families turning out in “Save Elsmere Canyon” T-shirts. The issue was catapulted into the news.

Suddenly, the Santa Clarita Valley had a voice. And that voice unanimously shouted “no.”

Much wrangling by various elected officials ensued, but the community’s voice was steadfast.

Ultimately, it was some legislative sleight-of-hand on the congressional level that quietly killed BKK’s dump proposal in 1996.

So today’s dedication marks more than an impressively large chunk of land added to the city’s Open Space Preservation District. It marks a people’s victory over a seemingly unstoppable “done deal.”

It celebrates the coming-of-age of community for the Santa Clarita Valley. It marks the beginning of a new attitude that would eventually propel this community into a leadership role in Southern California and, increasingly, statewide.

Our congratulations to all who championed the preservation of Elsmere Canyon.


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