“If we waited two more weeks, we would’ve been blown off the mountain.”
As Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste stood at the podium, the expanse of Elsmere Canyon to her back, she noted the detailed history of the land’s inspiring preservation.
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The canyon, once slated to become a 190-million ton landfill 20 years ago, will remain a beautiful wildlife corridor – the result of the work of several governmental bodies, agencies and property owners, she said.
Now totaling approximately 1,200 acres of public land just north of the Interstate 5 and State Route 14 junction, the City of Santa Clarita, with contributions by Los Angeles County and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, purchased 842 acres in Elsmere Canyon in October.
But the road to that purchase was paved with many obstacles, as Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean can attest. With BKK Corporation Landfill poised to turn the canyon into a massive disposal, it took City officials, federal legislators, the Walt Disney Company and several local residents to stop it.
“20 years plus,” said McLean. “This is a day I’ve dreamed of. This is a day I’ve fought for.”
With wind rustling her hair and bouts of dust blanketing the crowd, McLean recounted her contentious dialogue with BKK President Ken Kazarian, who once told her that several “housewives” had approached him with concerns, and that it was easy for him to simply brush them aside.
“He didn’t know who he was dealing with,” said McLean.
If BKK had entered Elsmere Canyon, there might have been up to 2,400 dumping trips per day, contributing to a pile of waste clearly visible from the floor of Santa Clarita valley.
Instead, as Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich noted, the canyon’s 12 natural waterfalls, its fossil field, Native American artifacts and 20 endangered species will be preserved.
As the dedication ceremony pushed onward, speakers thanked figures such as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as Congressman Buck McKeon, who fought for Elsmere Canyon at the federal level, eventually passing the Omnibus Parks Act of 1996, which effectively prohibited any landfill from being built on public land in the Angeles National Forest.
Throughout the event, several guests inched toward the lip of the mountain, staring silently into the massive canyon, filled only by plant life, horse paths, hiking trails and covert wildlife.
“You got it. It’s yours,” said Weste. “No one can take it away from you now.”