On May 15, 2004, a celebration of the creation of the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, commonly known as Ahmanson Ranch, took place at the Hidden Valley homestead of Dr. Richard Grossman, a famed plastic and reconstruction surgeon, and one of the movers and shakers in the battle of Ahmanson Ranch. The party was held as a fundraiser for SOAR – Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources, a “non-profit organization whose mission is to make Ventura County a better place to live by limiting urban sprawl, protecting open space and agricultural lands, and promoting livable and sustainable communities in the county and surrounding regions” according to the SOAR website.
The special guest of honor was Mary Wiesbrock who was so crucial to the Ahmanson Ranch fight that the new park has a trail loop named after her. Indeed, when word of negotiations leaked out in the summer of 2003 that Washington Mutual was bargaining with the State of California over making the proposed WaMu development parkland, we received a telephone call from Wiesbrock who tearfully thanked us for our Ahmanson Ranch coverage, crediting it with shaking the issue loose. “If it wasn’t for your reporting, none of this would be happening,” she said in a message forever ingrained in our hearts and minds. Wiesbrock is the founder of Save Open Space, which has a thousand members in Ventura County.
Wiesbrock, and the folks at this celebration, are the reason that this land is now public parkland. Our role in this saga had to do with exposing possible pollution from neighboring Rocketdyne having impacted the place. If anyone, or anything, is responsible for saving the ranch, it is Rocketdyne’s legacy of radiological and chemical contamination. We just happened to be the ones to expose it — the resultant park was a bonus.
(Click thumbnail to view entire photograph)
Left to right: Dr. Richard Grossman shares a
laugh with journalist Michael Collins who interviews him for an article he
wrote about the event called "Ranch Revelry."
Left: Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, in whose district Ahmanson Ranch is situated, was a major force in fighting to keep the ranch free
Her colleague, Supervisor Steve Bennett, is in the center photograph in the green shirt.
Joining Supervisor Parks was
Ahmanson Ranch stalwarts Carol Elliot, foreground, and Dennis and Carol Washburn, background.
Of course, the celebration would
not have been complete without the
presence of actor/director Rob Reiner and his trusty political operative, Chad Griffin, both of whom were stalwart opponents of WaMu's development plans and were raked over the coals for it by development backers.
Michael Collins first met Reiner at a "Stop Washington Mutual -- Rally to Save Ahmanson Ranch" event at a high school in the San Fernando Valley in October 2002. While Collins gave Reiner a hard time for not mentioning Rocketdyne pollution at the rally, the two nevertheless met cordially at the park's dedication that Dean Kuipers noted.
Michael Collins and
Rob Reiner share a moment under one of the grand Valley Oaks that dot Dr. Grossman's picturesque property.
Left and center: Former Assemblywoman Hannah Beth-Jackson, a key elected official
opposed to the WaMu development, spoke to the crowd and also to Mrs. Richard Grossman, right.
Community activist, Sue Boecker, left,
chats with Dr. Shelly Luce, then of Heal the Bay, an environmental group that warned of the dire impacts that the Ahmanson Ranch development would have downstream in Malibu.
The audience settles as Rob Reiner readies to begin a heartfelt introduction of the guest of honor, Mary Wiesbrock.
Dennis Washburn seemed moved by Reiner's raise of Wiesbrock. Washburn, the former mayor of Calabasas, a city bordering Ahmanson Ranch, is now a councilman for that municipality that fought tenaciously to stop the WaMu development over pollution and traffic concerns.
Obviously, there is something about
Mary. Rob Reiner compared this grandmother, who originally hails from Tennessee, to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," for her pluck and tenacity.
It is folks like the Washburns, above, that make the oft-times thankless job of an investigative journalist worth all the work.
At the end of the day, it is the laughter of those who care more about their country and fellow Americans than they do about their wallet, that makes journalism a great job.