MRCA to purchase 612 acres of Ladyface Mtn for pubic use

Source of this article: Zev’s Blog, March 20, 2013

Lovers of the Santa Monica Mountains soon will have 612 acres of new reasons to cherish the wilderness expanse at the edge of one of the world’s largest cities.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week approved two major acquisitions by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority totaling 612 acres, including a vast expanse of land on the south face of the distinctive peak known as Ladyface Mountain.

“In terms of interior, non-coastal acquisitions, there hasn’t been anything this big in a long, long time,” said Paul Edelman, chief of natural resources and planning for the organization.

Preserving the Ladyface Mountain property—more than 525 acres in unincorporated Cornell, near Agoura Hills—means that a huge bloc of wildlife habitat will remain unaltered by development or other human activity. “It will always be there,” Edelman said. “It’s something we can count on.” The iconic views of the property, with its dramatic rock outcroppings, will continue to dominate the vista seen by those who travel along Kanan Dume Road.

Beyond the unspoiled beauty of the landscape itself, he said, placing the property under public ownership opens up vast new possibilities for how visitors will be able to use it.

“It creates a trail opportunity that few people have ever even dreamed of,” he said. For the first time, he said, the Pentachaeta Trail in Westlake Village will be able to connect across Triunfo Canyon and into the heart of the mountains.

The other property, in Escondido Canyon near Malibu, is much smaller—just over 86 acres. But its environmental, aesthetic and recreational significance is immense, Edelman said.

A central feature is a deeply shaded creek that flows year-round. Someone—no one’s sure exactly who—long ago created “a little bit of a Shangri-La” on the property, with a pond, terraces and picnic areas, Edelman said.

Both properties have drawn their share of headlines over the years.

Long-running development battles raged over an on-again, off-again plan to turn the Escondido Canyon property into a New Age retreat, featuring 95 of the Mongolian tents known as yurts, along with swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness facilities and meeting rooms. Now the property—made up of 34 separate parcels—will remain undeveloped.

Ladyface Mountain also has attracted plenty of attention, including a cheeky 2010 April Fool’s Day prank by the local newspaper, the Acorn, which claimed that a massive sculpture and aerial tramway—or “even a small bullet train”—were in the works for the site.

All joking aside, the Acorn also spent some time exploring the derivation of the peak’s unusual name—said to be a poetic reference to a Native American legend of the mountain’s distinctive outline—and concluded that it “had more to do with modern day marketing than Chumash Indian lore.

“The legend that tells of a lady peering into the skies waiting for the return of her warrior lover was fabricated by Art Whizin, a real estate developer and businessman who moved to the area in 1954 and wanted to build a restaurant on the crest of the mountain,” the newspaper reported.

When this latest acquisition by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority is completed, the vast majority of land around the mountain will be in public hands and immune to any such development proposals in the future.

The purchase of both properties, at a total cost of $8.3 million, is being funded by 3rd District funds generated by, among other sources, Proposition A, the parks measure approved by county voters in 1992 and 1996.

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