Neighbors Fear Development of LA Park
California officials want to develop Santa Susana State Historic Park in Chatsworth with amenities such as a campground or visitors’ center, igniting neighbors’ concerns about heightened fire danger and increased crime, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
The 670-acre park, located in western Los Angeles County and about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, would help reduce a shortage of recreational parkland and open recreational options for hikers and campers, officials say. But neighbors fear traffic and parking nightmare at a facility that already attracts gangs and transients and is not well-policed.
They also note that the bush-covered area is susceptible to strong winds, and they fear that campgrounds – with campfires – could increase the danger to their homes.
Margery Brown, chairwoman of an ad hoc committee of Rockpointe condominium owners, said her group has collected about 600 signatures from concerned residents.
“Part of me thinks it might be nice to have a nice park up there,” Brown said. “But the other part says there’s all these issues about parking and vagrants and fires. It spoils the thinking about having a nice park. Guess I have to come down on the side of being very worried about all these issues, and think probably they need to leave that area alone.”
Fire danger is one of the biggest concerns.
In fall 2005, the Topanga Fire blackened more than 16,000 acres in the canyons and hills only a few miles from the park, fueled by dry brush and Santa Ana winds that spewed sparks across the terrain.
Jackie Pachon, whose home in Chatsworth is next to the park, said it already often attracts gang members and other criminal activity.
“Essentially the whole neighborhood is outraged, but it’s falling on deaf ears with the state,” Pachon said.
The state began acquiring the mountainous territory in 1979 and classified it as a state park by 1998. Now it is working on drafting a general plan for the park.
Options include a visitors’ center, a campground in the northern section of the park, new trails, parking, an amphitheater, picnic sites and restrooms. The state Park and Recreation Commission will choose from among the options sometime next year.
Sheryl Watson, a spokeswoman for California State Parks, said developing the park would likely lead to better care and maintenance.
That would include more staffers on site, including possible stationing of a park host on the property who would live there full time as a caretaker.
She said the state is aware of the potential fire danger and takes steps to contain campfires by restricting them to pits made of concrete and metal and clearing all nearby brush.
“We have a long history of being good stewards of the land,” Watson said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Ultimately, however, public surveys have shown demand for more recreational parkland in California, she said. And Watson said she hopes the state can work on those local concerns.
“We want to hear more from the community,” Watson said.