The sound of birds breaks the silence of Browns Canyon where a portion of its watershed, referred to as Gopher Canyon, was once a quarry that provided rock and gravel in the 1940s to build a part of the breakwater in Los Angeles Harbor.
Gopher Canyon, where native plants thrive following a restoration project, is about to get some sprucing up next week as work gets under way to give the public better access.
Hikers, equestrians and just plain folks out for some exercise or communing with nature will be able to drive closer to the trails in the canyon, park their cars or horse trailers and have a good time.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich recently provided $50,000 to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to improve public access to its 2,326-acre Michael D. Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch on the southern slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains between Chatsworth and Simi Valley.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority is a local government agency comprised of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Conejo and the Rancho Simi recreation and park districts.
The $50,000 is earmarked to add new signs, build gates, create a staging area and corral for horses and install large boulders as protection for a five-acre restoration site. There is already a large parking area in the quarry that will be expanded.
By the end of October, the parking lot will be available by reservation to special-use groups. It will open to the general public early next year.
“We are happy to work with the community, the equestrians in the area and the Conservancy to provide important access to dedicated open space that connects to Michael Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin,” said Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell.
Currently, vehicle access into Antonovich Regional Park is limited to one main trailhead higher up Browns Canyon Road. A few parking spaces are available near the street at the lower entrance to Gopher Canyon.
The park encompasses the headwaters of Devil, Ybarra and Browns canyons. These canyons contain extensive oak and walnut woodland and riparian corridors with year-round surface water.
The Conservancy’s Gopher Canyon property expands the regional park boundary, which is part of an approximately 10,000-acre, protected-habitat block in the Santa Susana Mountains extending into Ventura County.
A nearly $1 million mitigation payment in late 2008 was given to the Conservancy to perform substantial grading in the quarry and restore the stream corridor. The money came from Caltrans, which was penalized in 2004 for unauthorized emergency stream impacts along the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway. The agency had to mitigate more than six acres of riparian habit as a result.
It took four years to direct the money to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the restoration began in the fall of 2009.
Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources and planning for the Conservancy, said thousands of native plants and trees were planted and a retention pond built.
“About $250,000 is yet to be spent,” Edelman said. “We are applying for permits to do additional restoration above and below the quarry. These improvements to Gopher Canyon will create an order of magnitude of better public access to Antonovich Regional Park and Joughlin Ranch.”
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy works together with other government and nonprofit agencies to achieve an interlinking network of parks, trails, and open space for public use and wildlife habitat surrounding the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.