The Chatsworth Neighborhood Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to send a letter to elected representatives to keep the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park open despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to shut 70 parks statewide to help balance his budget.
“We object to continually making the state park system and its dedicated employees budget scapegoats to the state budget problems, and object to the proposed closure of multiple parks in the state system,” the letter states. “This state park plays an important role in our community’s history as a remarkable reminder of an historic stagecoach pass, a sandstone quarry operation and a masterfully built [railroad] tunnel that was the longest tunnel in the country at the time it was built, all of which are inside the park’s boundaries."
The citizen-formed Santa Susana Volunteers, that works the 670-acre park, put in 4,700 hours last year keeping the trails maintained, removing graffiti and leading interpretive hikes at no cost to the state.
Members of the Santa Susana Mountain Park Assn. are working on a two-prong response to the park’s pending closure, said Vice President John Luker, who was named Chatsworth’s Citizen of the Year last month.
The first approach, Luker said, was to fight to keep the park from closing, and the second was to be prepared if it closes down, which he believes will happen in July 2012.
“Our park is going to close,” said Luker, who is a state park employee. “Santa Susana [Pass State Historic Park] is unique in that the state spends zero [money] on services and zero [money] on maintenance.”
Association President Teena Takata said she is setting up a nonprofit entity for the group to run the park and is also looking into insurance requirements that will most likely be necessary if the state relinquishes its responsibility for the park.
“It is a tremendous opportunity for the community to stand up and protect something we really loved,” Takata said.
Luker and Takata are concerned if the park is closed squatters will move in, graffiti will increase, paintball wars will escalate and law enforcement will have to spend more time monitoring unlawful activities.
As an example, this past weekend, a storage room on the adjacent shuttered Chatsworth Park South that held several wheelchairs for a team of disabled basketball players was vandalized, Luker said. He added that he is sure that type of crime will increase and in a few years the building will be destroyed beyond repair. Chatsworth Park South is awaiting a solution to lead contamination in the soil and has been closed since Valentine's Day 2008.
Even though the park is closed, the $100,000 gym floor in the park's vandalized recreation center was replaced through Proposition K indebtedness in March 2009.
Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, which offers panoramic views of the rugged natural landscape as a striking contrast to the developed communities nearby, is located where the Simi Valley Hills meet the Santa Susana Mountains south of the Ronald Regan (118) Freeway in the northwestern portion of Chatsworth.
Pending legislation in the state Assembly could help to keep the park open. AB 64 and AB 42 are presently on the Assembly and Senate floors and have to do with the state partnering with nonprofit organizations and local governments to keep the parks open.
In other action, the Council is planning an October election to replace Board Member William Lander who recently stepped down because he is moving out of the area.
The Council also approved spending $1,100 for a half-day workshop retreat to set goals for the upcoming fiscal year and identify projects they want to bring to the community. The board will meet between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the The Chatsworth Hotel, 9777 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Jeff Hammond, chair of an ad-hoc committee assigned arrange cleanup of streets in Chatsworth, reported that the project began this week.
Harmon said the committee is looking to spend an estimated $10,000 on major thoroughfares where block walls face the streets and where property owners seem to ignore the problem. No clean up will be performed where a residence faces the street. By law, residents are responsible for the maintenance of these areas, even if they are outside a wall.
“This is a one-time clean up that will show the community what it should be doing on their properties,” Harmon said.
The streets include Lassen Street, parts of Devonshire Street and Farralone Avenue, Winnetka and Mason avenues and Plummer Street.