By Michael Collins
(Ventura County Reporter – May 20, 2004)
Nearly 200 folks gathered May 16 in Hidden Valley to celebrate the defeat of Washington Mutual’s plan to turn the pristine hills of Ahmanson Ranch into 3,050 residences and two golf courses. The Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) fundraiser honored citizen activist Mary Weisbrock in her role as a prime rescuer of over 2,900 acres of pristine hills dotted with thousands of Valley Oaks and no small number of endangered flora and fauna. The event was held at the impressive 63-acre Brookfield Farms estate of Dr. Richard and Elizabeth Grossman and included such local heavies as State Senator Fran Pavely, Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, Ventura Mayor Brian Brennan and county Supervisor Steve Bennett. Thousands of dollars were raised towards SOAR’s efforts to support a November ballot measure that would raise funds for purchasing open space in Ventura through a quarter percent raise in the sales tax levied over a decade.
“Mary Weisbrock epitomizes to me what SOAR is all about – perseverance, dedication and trying to save as much open space for future generations as we can,” Supervisor Linda Parks told the Reporter. “I really think we wouldn’t have come as far as we did without Mary. For fifteen years, she dedicated her life to trying to protect this land with a vision, a vision that it would be safe for parkland. While I was working and then became an elected official, I’d go to press conferences and say ‘someday I’m going to be at the Mary Weisbrock trail to Laskey Mesa’ and it happened! It all starts with that vision and grassroots. The grassroots movement is what really saved Ahmanson Ranch.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a little star power either. The crowd, still giddy over ‘WaMu’s Waterloo,’ soaked up Rally to Save Ahmanson Ranch honcho Rob Reiner’s praises of Weisbrock. “It just goes to show you that if something is right, really right, all you need is some person who knows in her heart that something is really right and is willing to stand up, and is willing to take on big powerful forces,” Reiner told the crowd. “It can be done. It’s Mary Weisbrock goes to Washington, it really is. It shows you that one person can really make a difference. You hear that all the time but she did actually make a difference. This is more than just about Ahmanson Ranch. It sends a huge signal to developers, to people who are wanting to take precious resources and turn them against what nature and God has given us all, that is a place to live.”
Reiner likened himself to a hardball pitcher coming into the ninth inning to smoke the opposition. “We threw a lot of heat and that is a lot of what has to happen but, in all honesty, you have to have somebody who is willing to fight the fight and keep it alive and (Weisbrock) kept it alive,” Reiner told the Reporter. “There are a lot of big powerful forces working against us and there’s a lot of courage in that. I know how to work with the media and that’s part of it too, to get people paying attention. So I know how to do that and was lucky that I could at least become aware of what was going on so we could do it.”
The Academy Award-nominated director also noted the role that media coverage of possible pollution emanating from neighboring Rocketdyne played in the process. “That was good stuff that (the Reporter) suggested, the perchlorate, and actually did help us.”