Last week I had an opportunity to attend the City of Santa Clarita’s second public meeting to discuss the proposed Master Plan for Rivendale Park and Open Space. In many ways, I was impressed with the conceptual plans presented by RRM Design Group and the inclusive master planning process directed and guided by the city staff. (For a view of the conceptual plans, click here.)
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I believe that both Conceptual Plan alternatives would create a welcoming and inviting public outdoor space, as well as transform the entrance to Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon.
However, the building of an outdoor amphitheater at Rivendale raises some questions for me, questions that I would like to share with you. My hope is that finding the answers to these questions will help our decision making. My goal is to help our community achieve a wise balance between worthwhile community activities and sustainable land stewardship. In the words of conservationist Aldo Leopold, we are engaged in “the oldest task in human history, to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”
Here are my four questions:
1. What are the public safety risks from wildland fires? The amphitheater site was burned as recently as 2003. Here is a photo of the area, which was taken during the Simi Fire of October 2003.
In addition, according the National Weather Service, “About 90 percent of wildfires are started by humans.” What are the risks of accidentally starting a fire? Will the amphitheater remain open during Red Flag days? How will this affect event scheduling, especially during fire season?
2. What are the financial risks of building in the 100 year floodplain? Here is a second photo, taken during the floods of February 2005, of a location about 500 feet upstream from the amphitheater. Flooding did cause infrastructure damage in Towsley Canyon in 2005. But repairing a road or a parking lot is less expensive than repairing a building – like an amphitheater. In addition, insurance premiums are greater in a known floodplain.
3. What are the anticipated effects on nocturnal wildlife in Wiley and Towsley Canyons? Even if there is a curfew, there will be additional light and noise during the early evening hours, a time when I’ve observed owls and bats hunting along Towsley Creek. Will this reduce the amount of available nocturnal habitat in Wiley and Towsley Canyons? If so, by how much? This is a question for ecologists and wildlife biologists to answer, as part of the CEQA process.
4. What are the anticipated effects of increased traffic on nearby wildlife crossings? The Master plan calls for between 311 and 353 parking spaces. Although much of this traffic will wind up on the I-5, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be additional traffic heading south on The Old Road after a concert. There are two critical wildlife crossings on The Old Road that connect the Newhall Wedge with the Santa Susana Mountains. I have included photo of one of them, the Wiley canyon under-crossing, which is located about a mile south of Rivendale. These wildlife crossings are critical to maintaining the long-term biological diversity and ecological health of our local, regional and statewide natural areas. This is another question for ecologists and wildlife biologists to answer in their Environmental Impact Report.
Our Santa Clarita Valley is fortunate to have a vibrant performing arts community, one that makes a positive contribution to our quality of life.
But Aldo Leopold reminds us we are all members of a larger community: “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
So, as part of the decision-making process, I think it would be wise to carefully consider the ecological and public safety risks of building an outdoor amphitheater at Rivendale.
We may decide to build the amphitheater at Rivendale; we may decide to look for another location. But whatever we decide, I think we can agree that our decision should be based on facts and take into account the needs of our larger community.
About Wendy Langhans
In the interest of transparency, please allow me to provide some background information. I am a former employee and current volunteer for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. As an Interpretive Naturalist, I have led public hikes in Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon for more than ten years. I am also a member of the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel for the City of Santa Clarita’s Open Space Preservation District. And I am the author of the SCV Outdoor Report on radio station KHTS AM-1220.
I want to make it clear that I am not speaking as a representative of any of these organizations, but rather as a private citizen who values both the arts and our environment.
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Source: Santa Clarita News