Ahmanson Ranch Victory entranceOn December 1, 2003, Ahmanson Ranch opened as the 2,983-acre Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. “No park purchase in Ventura or Los Angeles counties has been larger in either land area or cost, according to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which will administer the ranch,” reported the Los Angeles Times about the $150 million deal between the State of California and would-be developer Washington Mutual.

Then-mighty Washington Mutual had hoped to build 3,050 mansions and homes on Ahmanson Ranch, the latest developers in a battle that had been waged over this land for 17 years.

People like Mary Wiesbrock championed open space and decried the traffic problems the project would create as well as the threat to rare and endangered plants and animals on Ahmanson Ranch.

The tide began to turn against the massive development when revelations first appeared in the LA Weekly in the summer of 2002 that Ahmanson-adjacent Rocketdyne might have polluted the place.

The Ventura County Reporter newspaper published “Rocketdyne Ranch – Will the Ahmanson Development Tank Over Toxic Troubles” on December 12, 2002, a week before hearings on the development’s final approval were to take place. Thus began a series of multi-award-winning articles that spanned the LA Weekly, VC Reporter and Los Angeles CityBeat that exposed the contamination problems at Ahmanson Ranch and the former Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Laboratory, problems credited with derailing the project once estimated to be worth $2 billion to WaMu.

Today, Ahmanson Ranch celebrates its fifth birthday as open space covered by thousands of Valley Oaks and inhabitated by red-legged frogs and other rare and endangered animals. Hikers, bikers and anyone who cares to stroll its vast and rich savannahs can savor a saved land forced to be left fallow because of its proximity to one of the most polluted places in Southern California, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

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